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Temporarily halting travellers from India has 'element of racism', says Indian community leader

The Government's move to temporarily halt travellers entering the country from India has been branded as "unconscious bias" with an "element of racism," according to the editor of an Indian New Zealand community newspaper.

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Sandeep Singh says today's announcement was a shock to the community. Source: 1 NEWS

The travel ban was announced by Jacinda Ardern today and comes into force from 4pm on Sunday, April 11, until April 28.

Sandeep Singh told 1 NEWS it "came as a huge shock" to the Indian New Zealand community, who he described as "equally incensed, outraged and shocked with the decision".

"They were not anticipating anything punitive coming up so soon after the press conference that we heard from Dr Ashley Bloomfield."

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Singh says the community is "definitely seeing that there is some kind of unconscious bias in play," adding there was never an "urge" from the Government to carry out "punitive measures" in previous instances where travellers from countries seeing high Covid-19 case numbers were entering the country.

He says the community is "incensed with the element of racism" and that today's decision "could have been completely avoided".

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The Prime Minister says the move comes because she feels a sense of ‘responsibility and obligation’. Source: 1 NEWS

He noted the Director-General of Health had not "sounded any alarm" over New Zealand's ability to manage the risk presented at the border.

"There was no hint given that the advice that has been given to Cabinet was that extreme so we have been relayed by members of the New Zealand-Indian community to keep an eye on the actual advice that the Government received from the Department of Public Health,” he said.

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Singh also expressed concerns about how the news is being produced, adding that an Indian Weekender investigation in September 2020 found that the number of Covid-19 cases being detected at the border from India was "a distant third", trailing behind the US and UK.

“There is a pattern in which the news is being produced and public narrative is being shaped and how the Government is speaking up selectively on such divisive issues.”