Coronavirus: Indian Government responds to New Zealand's travel ban

The Indian Government has responded to New Zealand's temporary ban on travel from the Asian nation, expressing its hope the suspension isn't extended.

Kiwi Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday that New Zealand will bar anyone from entering Aotearoa from India from April 11 to 28. It comes in response to COVID-19 spinning out of control in India, with more than 130,000 cases reported there on Thursday alone and a high number of people travelling from there to New Zealand infected with the virus. 

Ardern was at pains to stress the suspension is temporary and necessary while the Government decides how best to manage the influx of infected travellers from high-risk areas.

The Indian Government has now responded, with Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi laying out his desire to see the ban not extended past April 28.

"New Zealand imposed a ban on incoming Indian travelers from April 11 to 28. This ban is not just imposed on Indians, but citizens of New Zealand," he said, according to the Hindustan Times. "We hope that this ban is removed after April 28 and normal movement restored."

On Thursday, 17 new MIQ cases of COVID-19 originated from India, continuing a pattern of India being the departure point of most of New Zealand's daily border cases. 

"During this temporary suspension, the Government will investigate options to manage risk. While, though, we have put in previous travel bans on countries, we have never previously suspended travel to New Zealand citizens and residents," Ardern said. 

Asked if the suspension could be extended past April 28, Ardern said that wasn't the Government's desire.

"At this stage, I cannot answer whether it would be any longer. It is not our intention that this be a long-term tool because that simply would not be, for a long period of time, that is just not something we are able to do to our citizens."

Ardern promised to use the period until April 28 "well" to find other options to reduce risk. 

"I am hoping there are further things we can do. That is the whole reason for this. At this stage, we have not, in our investigations, identified there are any particular issues with fraudulent testing. People are undertaking tests before leaving.

"We haven't identified anything obvious with our current arrangements that are contributing to the problem. However, we have to do better and that is what we are using this time to try and find a way in which we can."

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said prior to the Government's announcement that options could include additional requirements on people before they travel or putting everyone from high-risk countries into one facility.

Under the Bill of Rights, New Zealand citizens have a right to return home. Legal experts say the Government can put limits on that right, but only temporarily. The Government isn't looking at suspending arrivals from other countries because there aren't the same number of cases coming into New Zealand from them.

COVID Response Minister Chris Hipkins told The AM Show on Friday morning that the suspension was justified due to the spike in positive cases coming from India. He said it couldn't be done on a permanent or ongoing basis.

"This is a temporary restriction and it is important to note it is a temporary restriction. It is not a decision that we took lightly."