Members of the Indian community want Australia to continue accepting arrivals from India on compassionate grounds even if Premier Mark McGowan’s suggestion of a travel ban from the country is adopted.
- Two-fifths of recent COVID-19 cases in WA quarantine travelled from India
- The WA Premier will raise the travel ban idea with National Cabinet
- There are fears a ban would unfairly single out people coming from India
Community leader Suresh Rajan is pushing for exceptions for people such as for the uncle of seven-year-old Aishwarya Aswath, who died in Perth Children’s Hospital three weeks ago, to travel to WA to support her devastated family.
Her uncle is not an Australian citizen but is applying under the current system to come to Western Australia.
Mr McGowan will raise the proposed ban with National Cabinet, saying in the past month alone 40 per cent of cases in WA quarantine hotels had recently been in India.
That is up from 11 per cent in the previous month.
India has become the new global epicentre of coronavirus, averaging almost 250,000 new cases each day.
Mr McGowan’s call came after two people staying at a Perth quarantine hotel contracted the UK strain of COVID-19 from returned overseas travellers from India who were in another room.
Mr Rajan said he broadly supported the suggestion but hoped there could be exceptions made on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
“If the Premier’s call is in relation to medical advice then I would certainly support it,” he said.
“I would be happy for example to have these people coming in have a COVID test up to 72 hours before departure, and then again when they arrive.”
Don’t single out India, travellers say
Mr Rajan, who is also president of the Ethnic Communities Council of WA, lost an uncle in India to the virus this week, and said it was devastating to see COVID-19 ravaging the country.
But he said people like Aishwarya’s uncle should be allowed into WA on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
“We are trying to bring her uncle to provide some emotional and mental health support to the family, and we are at the stage where we have applied for a visa and he has booked his tickets, but if this ban comes in he will not be able to come here,” he said.
“This is a case of extreme need on the part of an Australian citizen. We need to make sure that we can provide that mental health support.”
Khush Monga, who lives in Perth’s southern suburbs, finished her hotel quarantine last night after travelling to India for her father’s funeral.
She thought India should not be singled out for any ban.
“Yes, the numbers are high, but the numbers in US are quite high as well. If you want to put a ban and keep Australia safe, put a ban from all around the world, not just India.”
Expert doctor backs ban
But David Berger, an emergency doctor who has just co-authored a research paper in the Medical Journal of Australia on preventing the airborne transmission of COVID-19, argued there was a case for a temporary travel ban from India.
Dr Berger said the transmission in the Perth quarantine hotel was certainly because of airborne transmission and highlighted the hotel quarantine system could not deal with highly transmissible variants of the virus.
“Given the risk that India currently presents with its highly transmissible, highly infectious variant, which is absolutely out-of-control, I think there is an argument for a very temporary cessation [of travel] from India,” he said.
“But we need to revamp hotel quarantine so it is safe.”
Mr McGowan also called for pre-testing measures ahead of international flights to be examined.
“Our thoughts are with our friends in India at this difficult time, as well as with our Western Australian Indian community,” he said.
“They are trying to put a stop to the third wave, however in Australia we need to do everything we can to keep this double mutant variant away.”