Indian community leader questions 'overnight' travel ban decision as Jacinda Ardern reiterates 'it's only temporary'

An Indian community leader says there's anger and irritation as a travel ban from their homeland to New Zealand came into force on Sunday.

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, when justifying the decision again on Monday, insisted the ban was only a temporary one.

Ardern on Thursday announced New Zealand was barring arrivals from India from Sunday until April 28, due to a massive spike in COVID-19 cases in the Asian nation. 

But Waitakere Indian Association president Sunil Kaushal told Newshub the travel ban is a major setback.

"Frustration [is] brewing up because the decisions are taken overnight and not enough notice is given."

He said was no transparency from the Government and little information has been given.

"We need to protect the team 5 million, without a doubt. However, the way it has been done is probably not transparent."

Asked on Monday why New Zealand hadn't banned arrivals from the US, Brazil, and the UK, Ardern told The AM Show a high number of people travelling from India were testing positive in New Zealand's managed isolation (MIQ) facilities. The US and Brazil both have more recorded COVID-19 cases than India, while the UK has the third-most infections in Europe and the fifth-highest global deaths. 

"If you look back across the course of the pandemic to the number of occasions where we've had more than 10 cases, that has happened consistently for India over the last four weeks," Ardern said.

Only once had 10 or more returnees from the UK tested positive for COVID-19 in New Zealand's MIQ facilities, said Ardern.

"What we're looking at, and this is only temporary - do we need to shorten down the timeframe at which we ask people to get that pre-departure test? Because what the evidence is telling us is that they're getting that test sent to us before they leave - it's very likely that they're getting COVID after they've been tested."

National leader Judith Collins told Magic Talk's Peter Williams she supported the ban.

"I actually agree absolutely that we cannot have people coming in from countries where there is another massive outbreak in India and these tests are not working for some reason or something’s going wrong there," she said on Monday.

"We need to get that sorted out - I fully support that.

"This is not a slur on Indian New Zealanders. It's a serious measure the Government should have taken when they first realised there was a problem."

Legal experts have said the Government was within its rights to ban New Zealand citizens from returning home - so long as it remains a temporary arrangement. COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins reiterated this on Friday. 

"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," he told The AM Show.