Why is the response to NSW’s latest case of COVID so different?

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Another case of COVID in NSW from a US returned traveller! The problem to date affects Central and Eastern Sydney, but the whole metropolitan area is under new restrictions.

The obvious and most pressing first question is, why are flights from the USA not suspended IMMEDIATELY? Why aren’t intending returnees from the USA being issued with an emergency declaration and threats of jail for 5 years?

Let me guess: the US version of coronavirus is less transmissible than other strains? Perhaps – but let’s be real. This is another community transmission in Australia’s biggest city and represents a major problem for 4 or 5 million Australians.

Second guess: USA is an ally and hence we need to keep our relationship strong and open? But wait… India is also a notable and increasing important ally. It could well be added to an expanding Five Eyes arrangement. So… well… it can’t be that.

Third guess: people from the USA are different to those from the sub-continent? They are extra-human? Somehow special?

It is amazing how with each passing day the inequity and cruelty of the blockade on returnees from India seems to worsen.

To reiterate a point, hotel quarantine is not and has never been, the most effective way to manage borders. It was a short-term option while a smarter, more sustainable solution should have been sought. That is, if a lasting solution was ever sought.

Last week, the federal government announced penalties and jail time for anyone who tried to enter Australia from India. Source: Twitter

READ ALSO: Where to donate for COVID relief in India

It is beginning to look like the Commonwealth government is both isolationist and reactive. Where is the planning and vision? Where is the understanding that coronavirus will be around for years?

After all, why are the Labor governments from Queensland and Victoria proposing sustainable solutions when quarantine is a Commonwealth matter? How can the individual Australian states understand the need for long-term solutions better than the national government? The states appear to understand Australia as a nation in the context of a globalised world, more clearly than the Commonwealth government.

What a strange reversal of responsibility.

The Commonwealth has long touted its economic credentials. Investment in infrastructure is a means by which to ensure future prosperity. This has been the mantra. Well, infrastructure spending IS needed and urgently. It is needed for quarantine. That is, Commonwealth created, managed and maintained facilities. And of course, all of these outside of the major population centres.

Structural change is required if we are to manage an effective way out of this repeated open up – lockdown – open up – lockdown cycle.

Blaming a singular community for a non-material threat, whilst ignoring the evident material health threat from other nations might be popular in the polls. It may appeal to a narrow sense of self – but it also distracts and detracts from the real issue.

Instead of stigmatising Indian-Australians, it would be preferable to focus on appropriate rather than haphazard solutions.

The real issue is what is the long-term plan? How do ALL returning citizens from ALL nations fit into the plan? And when will we have a proper Commonwealth run quarantine system so that the main population centres, the drivers of Australian commerce, are not continually under tension, threat and facing uncertainty?

READ ALSO: Australia’s India travel ban: Hard to find it not racist

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Mohan Dhall
Mohan Dhall
Academic leader, M2K Education and Advisory and CEO of Australian Tutoring Association and Global Tutoring Association.

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