#COVID-19: Comparing provinces with other countries 21 July Update, India unreported cases

The latest charts, compiled 21 July as overall rates in Canada continue to decline along with increased vaccinations (Canadians fully vaccinated 51.7 percent, higher than USA 49.2 percent and and just behind UK 54.2 percent).

Vaccinations: All Canadian provinces ahead of USA and EU countries.

Trendline charts

Infections: No significant change but slight uptick in G7 less Canada given increased infections in UK and USA.

Deaths: No significant change.

Vaccinations: Captured above, with steady gap between Canadian provinces and G7.

Weekly

Infections: No relative change.

Deaths per million: No significant change.

Interesting and relevant analysis of India’s under-counting of COVID-19 cases:

India’s excess deaths during the pandemic could be a staggering 10 times the official COVID-19 toll, likely making it modern India’s worst human tragedy, according to the most comprehensive research yet on the ravages of the virus in the south Asian country.

Most experts believe India’s official toll of more than 414,000 dead is a vast undercount, but the government has dismissed those concerns as exaggerated and misleading.

The report released Tuesday estimated excess deaths — the gap between those recorded and those that would have been expected — to be between 3 million to 4.7 million between January 2020 and June 2021. It said an accurate figure may “prove elusive” but the true death toll “is likely to be an order of magnitude greater than the official count.”

The report, published by Arvind Subramanian, the Indian government’s former chief economic adviser, and two other researchers at the Center for Global Development and Harvard University, said the count could have missed deaths occurring in overwhelmed hospitals or while health care was delayed or disrupted, especially during the devastating peak surge earlier this year.

“True deaths are likely to be in the several millions not hundreds of thousands, making this arguably India’s worst human tragedy since Partition and independence,” the report said.

The Partition of the British-ruled Indian subcontinent into independent India and Pakistan in 1947 led to the killing of up to 1 million people as gangs of Hindus and Muslims slaughtered each other.

The report on India’s virus toll used three calculation methods: data from the civil registration system that records births and deaths across seven states, blood tests showing the prevalence of the virus in India alongside global COVID-19 fatality rates, and an economic survey of nearly 900,000 people done thrice a year.

Researchers cautioned that each method had weaknesses, such as the economic survey omitting the causes of death. 

Instead, researchers looked at deaths from all causes and compared that data to mortality in previous years — a method widely considered an accurate metric. 

Researchers also cautioned that virus prevalence and COVID-19 deaths in the seven states they studied may not translate to all of India, since the virus could have spread worse in urban versus rural states and since health care quality varies greatly around India. 

And while other nations are believed to have undercounted deaths in the pandemic, India is believed to have a greater gap due to it having the world’s second highest population of 1.4 billion and its situation is complicated because not all deaths were recorded even before the pandemic. 

Dr. Jacob John, who studies viruses at the Christian Medical College at Vellore in southern India, reviewed the report for The Associated Press and said it underscores the devastating impact COVID-19 had on the country’s under-prepared health system. 

“This analysis reiterates the observations of other fearless investigative journalists that have highlighted the massive undercounting of deaths,” Jacob said.

The report also estimated that nearly 2 million Indians died during the first surge in infections last year and said not “grasping the scale of the tragedy in real time” may have “bred collective complacency that led to the horrors” of the surge earlier this year.

Over the last few months, some Indian states have increased their COVID-19 death toll after finding thousands of previously unreported cases, raising concerns that many more fatalities were not officially recorded.

Several Indian journalists have also published higher numbers from some states using government data. Scientists say this new information is helping them better understand how COVID-19 spread in India.

Murad Banaji, who studies mathematics at Middlesex University and has been looking at India’s COVID-19 mortality figures, said the recent data has confirmed some of the suspicions about undercounting. Banaji said the new data also shows the virus wasn’t restricted to urban centers, as contemporary reports had indicated, but that India’s villages were also badly impacted.

“A question we should ask is if some of those deaths were avoidable,” he said.

Source: https://apnews.com/article/business-science-health-india-pandemics-334c326d86efa73a0631bf7cb6e3f92e?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=MorningWire_July20&utm_term=Morning%20Wire%20Subscribers

She Said She Married for Love. Her Parents Called It Coercion.

More disturbing trends:

Manmeet Kour Bali had to defend her marriage in court.

A Sikh by birth, Ms. Bali converted to Islam to marry a Muslim man. Her parents objected to a marriage outside their community and filed a police complaint against her new husband.

In court last month, she testified that she had married for love, not because she was coerced, according to a copy of her statement reviewed by The New York Times. Days later, she ended up in India’s capital of New Delhi, married to a Sikh man.

Religious diversity has defined India for centuries, recognized and protected in the country’s Constitution. But interfaith unions remain rare, taboo and increasingly illegal.

A spate of new laws across India, in states ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P., are seeking to banish such unions altogether.

While the rules apply broadly, right-wing supporters in the party portray such laws as necessary to curb “love jihad,” the idea that Muslim men marry women of other faiths to spread Islam. Critics contend that such laws fan anti-Muslim sentiment under a government promoting a Hindu nationalist agenda.

Last year, lawmakers in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh passed legislation that makes religious conversion by marriage an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison. So far, 162 people there have been arrested under the new law, although few have been convicted.

“The government is taking a decision that we will take tough measures to curb love jihad,” Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu monk and the top elected official of Uttar Pradesh, said shortly before that state’s Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance was passed.

Four other states ruled by the B.J.P. have either passed or introduced similar legislation.

In Kashmir, where Ms. Bali and Mr. Bhat lived, members of the Sikh community have disputed the legitimacy of the marriage, calling it “love jihad.” They are pushing for similar anti-conversion rules.

While proponents of such laws say they are meant to protect vulnerable women from predatory men, experts say they strip women of their agency.

“It is a fundamental right that women can marry by their own choice,” said Renu Mishra, a lawyer and women’s rights activist in Lucknow, the Uttar Pradesh state capital.

“Generally the government and the police officials have the same mind-set of patriarchy,” she added. “Actually, they are not implementing the law, they are only implementing their mind-set.”

Across the country, vigilante groups have created a vast network of local informers, who tip off the police to planned interfaith marriages.

One of the largest is Bajrang Dal, or the Brigade of Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god. The group has filed dozens of police complaints against Muslim suitors or grooms, according to Rakesh Verma, a member in Lucknow.

“The root cause of this disease is the same everywhere,” Mr. Verma said. “They want to lure Hindu women and then change their religion.”

Responding to a tip, the police in Uttar Pradesh interrupted a wedding ceremony in December. The couple were taken into custody, and released the following day when both proved they were Muslim, according to regional police, who blamed “antisocial elements” for spreading false rumors.

A Pew Research Center study found that most Indians are opposed to anyone, but particularly women, marrying outside their religion. The majority of Indian marriages — four out of five — are arranged.

The backlash against interfaith marriages is so widespread that in 2018, India’s Supreme Court ordered state authorities to provide security and safe houses to those who wed against the will of their communities.

In its ruling, the court said outsiders “cannot create a situation whereby such couples are placed in a hostile environment.”

The country’s constitutional right to privacy has also been interpreted to protect couples from pressure, harassment and violence from families and religious communities.

Muhabit Khan, a Muslim, and Reema Singh, a Hindu, kept their courtship secret from their families, meeting for years in dark alleyways, abandoned houses and desolate graveyards. Ms. Singh said her father threatened to burn her alive if she stayed with Mr. Khan.

In 2019, they married in a small ceremony with four guests, thinking their families would eventually accept their decision. They never did, and the couple left the central Indian city of Bhopal to start a new life together in a new city.

“The hate has triumphed over love in India,” Mr. Khan said, “And it doesn’t seem it will go anywhere soon.”

In Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh state, the B.J.P.-led government passed a bill in March modeled after the Uttar Pradesh law, stiffening penalties for religious conversion through marriage and making annulments easier to obtain.

The government is not “averse to love,” said the state’s home minister, Narottam Mishra, “but is against jihad.”

Members of Kashmir’s Sikh community are using Ms. Bali’s marriage to a Muslim man, Shahid Nazir Bhat, to press for a similar law in Jammu and Kashmir.

“We immediately need a law banning interfaith marriage here,” said Jagmohan Singh Raina, a Sikh activist based in Srinagar. “It will help save our daughters, both Muslims and Sikhs.”

At a mosque in northern Kashmir in early June, Ms. Bali, 19, and Mr. Bhat, 29, performed Nikah, a commitment to follow Islamic law during their marriage, according to their notarized marriage agreement.

Afterward, Ms. Bali returned to her parents’ home, where she said she was repeatedly beaten over the relationship.

“Now my family is torturing me. If anything happens to me or to my husband, I will kill myself,” she said in a video posted to social media.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/20/world/india-interfaith-marriage.html?action=click&module=In%20Other%20News&pgtype=Homepage

Drastic drop in COVID infected international flights in May

Of note:

Transport Canada’s decision to ban passenger flights from India appears to have had an impact.

While numbers are always updated as new cases are diagnosed, data posted online by Health Canada as of Tuesday shows only 113 flights landing at Canadian airports last month carried passengers infected with COVID-19.

That’s compared to 288 flights counted in April — 66 of which were direct flights from India’s capital of Delhi.

Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra halted passenger flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days as of April 22, as well as adding additional restrictions on travellers arriving from India via connecting flights — including requiring a negative PCR COVID-19 test taken at the last port of entry before entering Canada.

This all but halted passenger traffic from both countries, as laboratory tests that typically require 24 hours can’t be accommodated during airport stopovers usually only lasting a few hours.

As many travellers from India had been connecting through Middle Eastern airports like Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha, infected passengers on those flights likewise saw big drops — just four from the United Arab Emirates last month compared to 35 in April.

Initially meant to last 30 days, the flight ban was extended last month to June 22.

During the first part of the pandemic, India typically only saw a handful of infected flights landing at Canadian airports each month.

All that changed in mid-February with a spike of infected flights coinciding with that country’s devastating variant-fuelled second wave.

Pakistan, meanwhile, has never been a significant factor, with Health Canada only reporting five such flights in April.

The United States was Canada’s largest source of infected flights last month, seeing 23 planes land with at least one passenger testing COVID positive — that’s compared to 49 in April.

Paris and Doha, Qatar, tied for second place with 11, followed by 10 from Guatemala, eight each from Frankfurt and Panama, seven from Istanbul, six from Amsterdam and five from Mexico City.

Toronto saw the most arrivals last month with 49 compared to 167 in April; followed by Montreal with 43 versus 57 in April; 14 in Vancouver compared to 42 in April; and six landing in Calgary compared to 19 the month previous.

Top sources of international flights with COVID-19 infected passengers in May (April’s total in parentheses)

1. USA: 23 (49)
2. Doha: 11 (21)
3. Paris: 11 (16)
4. Guatemala: 10 (4)
5. Amsterdam: 6 (12)
6. Frankfurt: 8 (13)
7. Panama: 8 (4)
8. Istanbul: 7 (18)
9. Mexico City: 5 (5)
10. Kingston, Jamaica: 3 (8)

Source: Drastic drop in COVID infected international flights in May

#COVID-19: Comparing provinces with other countries 26 May Update

The latest charts, compiled 26 May as overall rates in Canada continue to come down along with increased vaccinations.

Vaccinations: Minor relative changes, with Alberta moving ahead of British Columbia and Ontario, Atlantic Canada ahead of Italy and France.

Trendline charts

Infections per million: Alberta levelling off and upsurge in Manitoba is resulted in Prairie rate marginally more than Ontario.

Deaths per million: No significant change.

Vaccinations per million: Canadian vaccination rates have largely caught up to G7 less Canada with Quebec ahead.

Weekly

Infections per million: Prairies ahead of Ontario, driven by Manitoba.

Deaths per million: No relative change.

India

While there is undercounting in all countries as analysis of above average deaths indicate (e.g., The Economist’s Tracking covid-19 excess deaths across countries), this article on India is of particular interest.

The official Covid-19 figures in India grossly understate the true scale of the pandemic in the country. Last week, India recorded the largest daily death toll for any country during the pandemic — a figure that is most likely still an undercount.

Even getting a clear picture of the total number of infections in India is hard because of poor record-keeping and a lack of widespread testing. Estimating the true number of deaths requires a second layer of extrapolation, depending on the share of those infected who end up dying.

In consultation with more than a dozen experts, The New York Times has analyzed case and death counts over time in India, along with the results of large-scale antibody tests, to arrive at several possible estimates for the true scale of devastation in the country.

Even in the least dire of these, estimated infections and deaths far exceed official figures. More pessimistic ones show a toll on the order of millions of deaths — the most catastrophic loss anywhere in the world.

India’s official coronavirus statistics report about 27 million cases and over 300,000 deaths as of Tuesday. The country’s response to the pandemic has been further complicated this week by a cyclone that is battering India’s eastern coast, with winds of more than 95 miles per hour.

Even in countries with robust surveillance during the pandemic, the number of infections is probably much higher than the number of confirmed cases, because many people have contracted the virus but have not been tested for it. On Friday, a report by the World Health Organization estimated that the global death toll of Covid-19 may be two or three times higher than reported.

The undercount of cases and deaths in India is most likely even more pronounced, for technical, cultural and logistical reasons. Because hospitals are overwhelmed, many Covid deaths occur at home, especially in rural areas, and are omitted from the official count, said Kayoko Shioda, an epidemiologist at Emory University. Laboratories that could confirm the cause of death are equally swamped, she said.

Additionally, other researchers have found, there are few Covid tests available. Families are often unwilling to say that their loved ones have died of Covid. And the system for keeping vital records in India is shaky at best. Even before Covid-19, about four out of five deaths in India were not medically investigated.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/05/26/world/covid-vaccine-coronavirus-mask

After Australia Banned Its Citizens in India From Coming Home, Many Ask: Who Is Really Australian?

Valid questioning:

When Ara Sharma Marar’s father had a stroke in India in early April, she got on the first flight she could from her home in Melbourne, Australia to New Delhi.

She had planned to return to Australia, where she works in risk management at a bank, on May 14. But then her government banned her from coming home. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on April 27 that travelers from India—including citizens—were barred from the country. The government emphasized that anyone who tried to come home would face up to five years in jail and a $50,000 fine.

“It’s immoral, unjustifiable and completely un-Australian because, you know, Australia prides itself saying that we are multicultural, we embrace all cultures, we welcome everyone,” she says.

Morrison faced a furious backlash from many corners from the country—especially from Australians of South Asian ethnicity, many of whom said the ban was racist—and quickly backed down. On May 15 the first repatriation flight from India landed in Darwin. But around 9,000 Australians remain stranded in India and the saga has revived the debate about what it means to be Australian—a longstanding, at times acrimonious, national conversation driven by the country’s ever-changing demographics.

Today, there are more foreign-born Australians than at any time since 1893, when Australia was still a British colony. Migrants make up 30% of all Australians, and Indian-born Australians are the second-largest group. (British immigrants remain the largest foreign-born population, with people from China in third place). Immigration is now the main driver of population growth in several states and migrants are a significant driver of economic growth. But some immigrants say they aren’t always accepted in a country that once closed its doors to non-Europeans.

“Many Anglo-Celtic Australians still believe that we are but guests in this country and that to acknowledge us as equals they will somehow lose their Australianism,” says Molina Asthana, co-founder of advocacy group Asian Australian Alliance. “Does being Australian mean you have to be light skinned, blond, love your barbies, brekkies and beers?” she asks.

‘Fortress Australia’ strands citizens overseas

Several countries, including the U.S., restricted flights from India or tightened quarantine rules on travelers coming from the country as a devastating second wave hit it. But Australia’s total ban on arrivals from India follows a pandemic policy of imposing of some of the strictest COVID-19 border controls in the world.

Australia bans nearly all non-residents from traveling to the country, and those who are able to enter must quarantine for 14 days in a hotel. Caps on international arrivals have prevented tens of thousands of Australians from returning from overseas during the pandemic. The hashtag #strandedaussies has been used hundreds of times on social media, and some have started referring to the country as “Fortress Australia.” One group of Australians is taking a complaint against the Australian government to the United Nations Human Rights Committee for not allowing its citizens to return home.

Nevertheless, the controls are very popular. A poll in conservative newspaper The Australian found that 73% of voters supported international borders remaining closed until at least mid-2022. That’s likely because the policies—along with swift, strict lockdowns when cases pop up—mean that the country has had remarkable success against COVID-19. With a population of 26 million, it has recorded fewer than than 30,000 coronavirus cases and just 910 deaths. Life appears normal. Employees have returned to their offices. Thousands of mostly maskless fans packed into a Melbourne stadium to watch the Australian Open in February and the following month saw tens of thousands of not-so-socially-distanced revelers attend the LGBT+ celebration Sydney Mardi Gras.

Authorities justified the blanket ban on arrivals from India as necessary to protect public health; India is facing a devastating second wave of COVID-19 and a variant first identified there—which scientists say is likely more infectious and better at evading human immune systems—is being detected across the Asia-Pacific. Australia’s chief medical officer Paul Kelly said on May 7 that the ban was explicitly linked to Australia’s limited quarantine capacity.

But many Australians of Indian descent feel singled out because the Australian government has not barred citizens returning home from other countries with large outbreaks. “Why weren’t these steps taken when it was America or U.K.?” asks Sharma Marar, who believes that the government has failed all of its nationals stuck overseas. She says that she is suffering from panic attacks and having trouble sleeping as the result of the stress of not being able to return home.

Kim Soans-Sharma, who remains stuck in Mumbai, India after she traveled there in January following her father’s death, says the ban has made her feel “unwanted.” That’s something she has never felt in Perth, Australia, which she’s called home since 2013. She adds that vitriolic comments from some Australians on social media showing no sympathy for other citizens like her stuck in India have been hard to bear.

“At this stage, I’m not proud to call myself an Australian,” she says.

How Australia became an ‘immigration nation’

Australia’s rising diversity in recent decades follows the expressly racist White Australia Policy that prevented migration by non-Europeans for much of the 20th century. When it became clear that immigration from Britain couldn’t provide the necessary population growth, more migrants from continental Europe were allowed, and the policy was slowly eased after World War II. The first step towards dismantling it was made in 1966, when the government allowed migration based on what skills people could offer Australia, instead of race or nationality. The White Australia Policy was then formally renounced in the early 1970s, and the government officially embraced multiculturalism.

However, the topic of immigration has been used as a political football for decades, with some successive governments unsupportive of migration. Many who arrive in Australia are skilled migrants, and some economists say that the country’s 27-year recession-free streak would not have been possible without immigration. A report by the research institute the McKell Institute calls the country “the world’s most successful” multicultural society. “Australia has truly embraced multiculturalism following an approach of integration between the different ethnicities and cultural groups where the dominant and minority groups are expected to respect each other’s cultures,” it says.

There are some tensions, however. Concerns over immigration have sparked a nativist movement, including a right-wing populist political party with an anti-immigration platform that has had minor success at the polls. A 2020 report on social cohesion released by the Scanlon Foundation, a foundation focused on fostering social cohesion in Australia, found that a large majority of Australians think that having a multicultural society makes Australia better, but 60% of people agreed with the statement that “too many immigrants are not adopting Australian values.” The report also noted substantial negative sentiment towards immigrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

In one 2019 survey, more than two-thirds said that Australia did not need more people. The same year, Morrison announced a cap on permanent migration at 160,000, a cut of 30,000 a year, to address crowding in cities that has increased real estate prices and caused congestion. “This plan is about protecting the quality of life of Australians right across our country,” he said.

Like in many places in the world, immigrants in Australia have faced racism as the result of the pandemic. The Asian Australian Alliance has received 530 reports of COVID-19-related racism since April 2020. When a COVID-19 surge hit Melbourne in mid-2020, representatives from a Muslim migrant community spoke out about being unfairly blamed. In March, Australia’s race discrimination commissioner Chin Tan called for a new national anti-racism framework to address prejudice against Asian-Australians related to the coronavirus pandemic and the legacy of “hatred” towards Muslims.

Asthana, of the Asian Australian Alliance, says the India travel ban is emblematic of the racism that migrants can face in Australia. “Whether it is overt racism or unconscious bias, most migrants have been at the receiving end of discriminatory treatment,” she says. “Only the communities change over time, from Greek and Italian to Chinese, then the Vietnamese, Indian and African and now back to the wider Asian Community during COVID.”

Tim Soutphommasane, Australia’s former race discrimination commissioner, says that Australia’s multicultural diversity is not represented yet in its major institutions. “It’s not yet there among our leaders of politics, government, and business. Nor is it there among the faces you see in the national media,” he says. “So that can feed into a sense within our elite political, business and media circles that being Australian is still essentially being Anglo-Celtic or European.”

Other experts say that what it means to be Australian is shifting along with its demographics. “Australia is a settler country,” says Catherine Gomes, an ethnographer at RMIT University in Australia, with a “social and cultural identity, that keeps on changing. Those identities start to adapt, according to how demographics are also changing.”

But for some Australians, those changes aren’t coming quickly enough. Despite the lifting of the ban, Sharma Marar says she won’t forget being barred from coming home.

“I think the scars of these policies and what has been done in last few weeks,” she says, “will live with us forever.”

Source: After Australia Banned Its Citizens in India From Coming Home, Many Ask: Who Is Really Australian?

Is Australia’s India travel ban legal? A citizenship law expert explains and a critique of the ban

The lack of a charter with mobility rights compared to Canada:

There is a growing public and political outcry over the federal government’s sudden decision to ban Australians from coming home from India.

But as everyone from Indian community leaders to human rights leaders, famous cricketers and Coalition MPs calls on the government to rethink the policy, is it legal? Is a High Court challenge an option?

What is citizenship?

In terms of common law, citizenship is a relationship between an individual and their nation, where each owes fundamental obligations to the other. In broad terms, the citizen’s job is to be loyal to the nation. The nation’s job is to protect its citizens.

Last year, a record number of people pledged allegiance to Australia and became citizens. The largest group of new citizens were Indian migrants, with over 38,000 becoming Australians in 2019-20.

Now, under the Australian government’s tough new travel ban, 9,000 Australians remain stranded in India, which is currently battling a deadly COVID-19 second wave and oxygen and vaccine shortages.

Some were granted permission to travel to India to see dying relatives or attend funerals. Others travelled there pre-pandemicand have since been unable to return to Australia.

Despite having done nothing wrong, these Australians have been left unprotected by a government that has failed to hold up its end of the citizenship bargain.

How does the travel ban work?

The ban makes it unlawful for anyone, including Australian citizens, to enter Australia if they have been in India in the past 14 days. It was made under sweeping powers conferred on federal Health Minister Greg Hunt by the 2015 Biosecurity Act.

Section 477 of the act allows Hunt to issue “determinations” imposing any “requirement” that he deems necessary to control the entry or spread of COVID-19. These determinations cannot be disallowed by parliament. Thanks to a provision aptly known as a “Henry VIII clause”, they also override any other federal, state or territory law.

If a person breaches the travel ban, for instance by transiting through a third country, the Biosecurity Act states they may face criminal penalties of five years imprisonment, a $66,000 fine, or both (even if Prime Minister Scott Morrison says jail time is unlikely).

Hunt says the ban is a “temporary pause”. It will lapse on May 15. However, if he deems it necessary, he could use his broad powers to reintroduce it, or impose similar restrictions.

As political pressure builds to remove the ban early, the government says it is “constantly” reviewing it.

Is the ban legal?

Another basic principle of citizenship is citizens may freely return to their countries. Under common law, this stems from the Magna Carta. It is also an important principle of international law, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In March, two Australians stranded in the United States took their case to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. They argued government policies blocking their return contravene international law.

The committee has not reached a decision, but in April it asked Australia to ensure their prompt return, noting they faced “irreparable harm”.

What about our domestic law?

Whether the ban is legal under Australian domestic law is a different question. Although the Department of Home Affairs says Australian citizens can “apply for an Australian passport and re-enter Australia freely”, there is no codified right of return under Australian law. This sets us apart from many countries that have a bill of rights, and include this right.

A High Court challenge is an option, but there is no clear path to success.

The High Court has said little on the subject. A 1908 case suggests citizens may have a common law right to return to Australia, provided this has not been taken away by parliamentary law. The Biosecurity Act of course thoroughly displaces any such right.

Due to the deep links between citizenship and the right of return, it has been suggested citizens may have an implied constitutional right to enter Australia. There is no case law on this yet — just a single, vaguely worded sentence in a 1988 High Court case — and there are good reasons why it might be a difficult case to argue in Australia.

Implied rights must be derived from the text and structure of Australia’s Constitution, which says nothing about Australian citizenship, and little about the relationship between the government and the people, besides providing for democratic elections.

Does it breach the Biosecurity Act?

Another argument might be the travel ban is unlawful on the grounds Hunt failed to comply with the conditions for making a determination under section 477 of the Biosecurity Act.

These conditions require him to be satisfied, before imposing the ban, that it was “likely to be effective” in stopping the spread of COVID-19, “appropriate and adapted” to this purpose, and “no more restrictive or intrusive” than the circumstances required.

Importantly, it is Hunt personally who must be satisfied of these conditions. This means if he reached that conclusion on reasonable grounds, he has not broken the law, even if a different approach might have been available.

Yesterday, Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly’s advice to Hunt in advance of the travel ban was released. Kelly’s advice emphasises the significant risk quarantine leakage poses to the Australian community and says a travel ban on arrivals from India until 15 May would be effective, proportionate and limited to what is necessary.

In light of this, it seems likely that a court would see the determination as a reasonable exercise of Hunt’s power.

Beyond the law, what about moral arguments?

But, legality aside, let’s return to the idea that Australia has a fundamental responsibility to protect its citizens. In February 2020, Hunt acknowledged this, pointing to two related national priorities: to contain the virus and protect citizens at home, and protect and support Australians abroad.

There may be circumstances in which these priorities conflict with each other. But it is hard to see the conflict in this situation. Quarantine and effective contact tracing have seen those within Australia substantially protected against COVID-19. We have not needed blanket bans on returns from the US, the United Kingdom or other countries that have experienced virus surges.

Kelly’s advice points to potential strain on quarantine, and Morrison has said the ban ensures that “our quarantine system can remain strong”. But the federal government could protect more people in Australia and abroad (not to mention ease pressure on countries experiencing COVID-19 strain), if it worked to bring citizens home while devoting more resources towards strengthening the quarantine system.

Yet the government has resisted this, despite a clear constitutional power over quarantine, the recommendations of public health experts and a national review.

Meanwhile, 9,000 Australians in India are anxiously waiting for a change to the law, which would at least legally permit them to try and return home.

Source: Is Australia’s India travel ban legal? A citizenship law expert explains

Strong commentary by Tim Soutphommasane, former Australian race discrimination commissioner, arguing against the ban:

It has come to this: a government pulling up the drawbridge on its own citizens trying to make it home. Last week’s announcement of a ban on return flights from India marks a drastic escalation of “fortress Australia”.

Yes, it isn’t the first time during the pandemic that Australia’s borders have been closed to people arriving from certain countries deemed high risk. This happened, for example, with China in February 2020.

But this new measure goes beyond a temporary closure of borders. It also involves harsh criminal penalties imposed on people seeking to return from India, including fines and even imprisonment.

There’s something seriously wrong about this. Citizenship is meant to guarantee its bearers certain rights and liberties. The right to vote. The right to expression. The right to live without interference. The right to enter one’s country.

Clearly, we can’t take our basic rights and liberties for granted. It’s no exaggeration to say that this policy undermines the very status of citizenship. The principles of democratic liberalism are under assault.

After all, citizenship means little if you can’t exercise your right to return to Australia in a time of need. Liberal democracy is diminished when your government doesn’t protect you when you’re in present or impending danger.

On every Australian passport, there is a page that bears a request of other governments and people that they “allow the bearer, an Australian Citizen, to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford him or her every assistance and protection of which he or she may stand in need”. Those words now ring hollow. How can we expect people abroad to do that, if our own government won’t do the same to its citizens?

Equal citizenship

Closer to home, this move inserts some doubts as to whether all citizens can presume they enjoy equal citizenship.

It hasn’t escaped many of us that there have been different standards of treatment given to citizens and residents returning to Australia during this pandemic. Last year, when Covid was rampaging through the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe, the government took no step to close our borders to those places, let alone impose criminal penalties on those arriving from there.

The government says it has introduced this policy based on medical advice. Yet, according to the commonwealth chief medical health officer, Paul Kelly, “no advice was given” in relation to the imposition of fines or jail terms for those seeking to circumvent the India travel ban. Moreover, numerous leading public health experts have questioned why a ban has been introduced.

It wouldn’t be the first time an Australian government has engaged in cynical racial dog whistling. As the Australian Human Rights Commission has stated, the government “must show that these measures are not discriminatory and the only suitable way of dealing with the threat to public health”. Because right now they do look discriminatory. And they are far from the only way to deal with any public health threat.

Here’s how we should be dealing with things. There remain about 35,000 Australians stranded overseas, including about9,000in India. We – and by we I mean the government that acts in our name – must act urgently to bring these Australians home, wherever they are. The way to do that is obvious: charter flights to bring them back, and create dedicated quarantine facilities across the country to make sure it happens safely.

How breathtaking it is that this hasn’t yet happened. We are more than one year into the pandemic. There has been plenty of time to think this through, make plans and deliver.

A choice between two Australias

Then again, you can understand why government hasn’t done this. This pandemic has confronted us with a choice between two Australias: between being an open, confident, internationalist country and being a closed, fearful, parochial nation. Increasingly, it seems as though people are choosing the latter.

There has been a strange acceptance of, maybe even enthusiasm for, a retreat into a hermit nation. Our politicians know all too well that closing borders and imposing lockdowns seem to bring some solid electoral payoffs: just ask Annastacia Palaszczuk and Mark McGowan.

For too many people, including those who may like to consider themselves progressive, border closures have become a fetish. It was weird enough that the pandemic was generating a competition among some premiers to close borders to other states. Now we’ve got to the point where we’re happy to have our national borders closed off to our own people and fellow citizens. At least some of them, anyway.

Covid has confirmed some timeless political truths. Amid threat, fear is a formidable beast to counter. And in tough times, minorities very rarely fare well. Covid has generated a significant rise in anti-Asian racism. Consider too, the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on migrants and international students.

But now the government is taking things into dangerous territory. Citizenship has been the bedrock of Australia’s multiculturalism: whatever background you’re from, you can be assured formal membership of the community. This latest move signals that, in the eyes of government, some of us are more Australian than others.

Tim Soutphommasane is a political theorist and professor at the University of Sydney. He was Australia’s race discrimination commissioner from 2013 to 2018

Source: Criminalising citizens returning from India signals some are more Australian than others

Forgetting Citizenship: Australia Suspends Flights from India

Interesting arguments given that Australia is often cited as the model in Canada. That being said, Australia has been much more serious than Canada in its quarantine requirements and enforcement for all groups, not just South Asians:

As India is being devastated by COVID-19 at a daily rate of 400,000 cases, Australia has taken the decision to suspend all flights coming into the country till mid-month. The decision was reached by the Morrison government with the blessing of the State Premiers and the Labor opposition.

Not happy with banning flights from India, the Morrison government promises to be savage in punishing returnees who find ways to circumvent the ban (for instance, by traveling via a third country). Citizens who breach the travel ban can face up to five years imprisonment and fines up to $51,000. “We have taken drastic action to keep Australians safe,” explained the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. The situation in India was “serious”; the decision had only been reached after considering the medical advice.

According to a statement from Health Minister Greg Hunt, it was “critical the integrity of the Australian public health and quarantine systems is protected and the number of COVID-19 cases in quarantine is reduced to a manageable level.”

The decision fails to carry any weight. It did not take long for more alert medical practitioners to wonder why the approach to India was being so selectively severe. Health commentator and GP Vyom Sharma thought the decision“incredibly disproportionate to the threat that it posed.” Sharma is certainly correct on this score in terms of international law, which requires the least restrictive or least intrusive way of protecting citizens.

Then there was the issue of the previous policies Canberra had adopted to countries suffering from galloping COVID-19 figures. A baffled Sharma wondered, “Why is it that India has copped this ban and no people who have come from America?” Former race discrimination commissioner Tim Soutphommasane seconds the suspicions. “We didn’t see differential treatment being extended to countries such as the United States, the UK, and any other European country even though the rates of infection were very high and the danger of its arrivals from those countries was very high.”

The Australian Human Rights Commission has also asked the federal government to justify its actions. “The government must show that these measures are not discriminatory and the only suitable way of dealing with the threat to public health.”

In the face of such behaviour, aggrieved citizens are left with few legal measures. Australia, among liberal democratic states, is idiosyncratic in refusing to adopt a charter of rights. Down Under, parliamentarians are supposedly wise and keen to uphold human rights till they think otherwise. (Human rights, the argument goes, would become the fodder of lawyers and judges, interfering with the absolute will of Parliament and the electors.) The Australian Constitution is hopelessly silent on the issue of citizenship. Left at the mercy of legislative regulation, Parliament and the executive can be disdainful towards their citizens without consequences.

One avenue remains the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Committee. On April 15, the UNHRC ruled on the case of two petitioners of FreeAndOpenAustralia.org (formerly StrandedAussies.org) that the Morrison government had to “facilitate and ensure their prompt return to Australia.”

Represented by the notable sage of international law Geoffrey Robertson QC, the petitioners argued that Australia was in breach of Articles 12(4) and 2(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The first article provides that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country; the second provides for “effective” remedies to be granted to those whose rights and freedoms have been breached under the ICCPR. The petitioners also freely admitted that they had no issue with quarantining for 14 days on returning to Australia.

In the words of Free and Open Australia spokesperson Deb Tellis, the Commonwealth should “use its power to expand quarantine facilities, and end travel caps that are being dictated by the states. There are thousands of our fellow citizens suffering [the] loss of their relatives and loss of their jobs.”

The government has preferred a meaner, penny-pinching approach in coping with quarantine, reducing flights when needed rather than expanding facilities to accommodate a greater number of infected arrivals. The hotel quarantine system continues to receive effusive praise from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison as being 99.99 percent effective. But it is impossible for him, and his ministers, to conceal the fact that they do not trust, and are unwilling, to use other facilities and expand existing ones.

Since last November, there have been 16 COVID-19 leaks across the cities of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth from quarantine hotels. At this writing, another quarantine leak is being reported in Western Australia, involving the now customarily infected hotel security guard and the inevitable seepage into the community. The problem of airborne transmission continues to plague, as does the uneven provision of personal protective equipment. No national standard of quarantine has been formulated throughout the country, with each state adopting its own approach. Audits of the ventilation systems in many such hotels remain sketchy.

Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan, who recently imposed a lockdown of the Perth and Peel areas and may well do the same thing over the next few days, suggested that the Commonwealth be generous with some of its facilities. Why not use the RAAF Curtin Air Base, or the immigration detention centres of Yongah Hill and Christmas Island? “It’s kind of staring us in the face and there are things that could assist, it’s just that the Commonwealth doesn’t want to do it.”

The evidence so far is that facilities such as Howard Springs in the Northern Territory tend to work. It features single-storey cabins, segregated air conditioning systems, outdoor veranda space, and, in the vicinity, a fully functioning hospital. No leaks have been recorded. And location is everything: distant from densely populated areas. This government, however, is miserly on the issue of quarantine, an obligation it has transferred without constitutional justification to State premiers who fear both the virus and its electoral consequences.

Source: Forgetting Citizenship: Australia Suspends Flights from India

India is in a COVID-19 crisis. South Asian-Canadians are weeping from afar, but also seeing devastating parallels for our people in Ontario

Captures well some of the dilemmas facing diaspora communities:

11,627 km.

That’s the distance from my house in Peel to Delhi, India, where the majority of my family lives.

This past week has been extremely difficult as a first generation Canadian born in India. I watch the devastation occurring in my hometown, and can’t help but see the parallels happening here in Ontario within the South Asian community. Immigrants like myself are fighting two pandemics – one here and one tens of thousands kilometres away, and it weighs heavily, each and every day.

On March 23, India had 40,000 COVID-19 cases. Fastforward to April 22, that number rose to 330,000. This is what exponential growth looks like. Experts believe these numbers are vastly under-reported by a margin of at least 10 times. Even if 10 per cent of these were hospitalized, with the average COVID-19 related hospital or ICU stay being 15 days, there is simply no healthcare system in the world that has the capacity to sustain such volume.

The situation in India is grave and complex. India saw a sharp decline in cases earlier this year, with around 10,000 cases on average per day in February. This unfortunately led to a sense of complacency, with some experts claiming preemptively that the country had achieved herd immunity. Subsequently, life returned to a form of “normalcy,” with weddings, religious festivals and political rallies being commonplace. Even Kumbh Mela, which is one of the largest gatherings in the world that sees upwards of 110 million people over the duration of the festival and up to 30 million people per day, went ahead as planned.

Complacency, however, wasn’t the only factor that led us to this situation. It’s a culmination of other factors. India has one of the lowest testing capacities per capita, with only 0.4 tests conducted per 10,000 people. India also has a much slower vaccination program. While India has manufactured large quantities of vaccines, it has distributed the majority of these globally. It is one of the largest suppliers into the COVAX program, accounting for 60 per cent of global vaccine supply. Meanwhile, less than 10 per cent of India’s own population has received one dose of the vaccine, with only 1 per cent fully vaccinated with two doses.

In addition, India now has a potentially concerning new variant, B.1.617, that amongst many mutations has two critical ones — L452R and E484Q — within the spike protein, making it more transmissible and possibly able to evade pre-existing immunity. It is still unknown whether vaccines are efficacious against this variant.

The stories, pictures and videos coming out of India are devastating. Scenes of people lying on the ground on the street with oxygen masks connected to empty tanks, dying outside of hospitals that did not have capacity to take them in, health care systems collapsing. There are make-shift outdoor hospitals, mass cremations sites, and reports of families having to keep dead bodies of relatives at home for two days because there was no wood left to build a funeral pyre. Hospital with mere hours left of oxygen supply.

Many in the South Asian diaspora are carrying the burden of knowing our own family members are amongst those affected. My father, who lives with me, spends his entire day calling each and every one of his family and friends. So many infected, many hospitalized, many searching for hospitals. Daily updates, sometimes hourly. Everytime he utters Hari Om Tat Sat (a sanskrit mantra) I wait with baited breath. I feel helpless remembering we are again, 11,627 km, apart — a number I can’t stop thinking about.

What hurts my heart even more is knowing that what is occurring to my people in India is also occurring here on Canadian soil. South Asians have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. The pandemic has been deeply inequitable, from support and protections to testing and now access to vaccines. Further, we are seeing additional stigmatization of South Asians due to this new variant now being found in Canada despite the fact that the primary reason for transmission remains to be structural barriers faced by our racialized communities. And like me, they are dealing with two pandemics — the one here and the one back home.

It really feels like because our skin is brown, our lives mean less. But we didn’t get to choose the colour of skin we were born into our socioeconomic status. We didn’t get to choose the country we were born in.

It was heartbreaking to see the world’s response to India’s crisis. Canada shut its borders. Simultaneously, our Premier’s office contacted the Indian high commissioner to request additional AstraZeneca vaccines in spite of the current crisis. The United States of America continues to sit on unused AstraZeneca vaccines and withhold raw materials required for India to manufacture more vaccines. This ‘me first’ strategy is not only inequitable, it is unwise because we know how the pandemic unfolds in one country will eventually happen in another.

And this is why vaccine nationalism is lethal. Your access to vaccines and subsequent right to life is dependent on factors that are out of your control. It is the stark inequities, the perpetuation of discrimination, the haves vs the have nots, the unfairness of it all that weighs heavily on me.

India gasps for air and burns with funeral pyres. But these lives don’t seem to matter. Because they’re brown.

I can’t stop crying. Because my heart can’t take it anymore.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2021/04/24/india-is-in-a-covid-19-crisis-south-asian-canadians-are-weeping-from-afar-but-also-seeing-devastating-parallels-for-our-people-in-ontario.html?li_source=LI&li_medium=thestar_recommended_for_you

#COVID-19: Comparing provinces with other countries 21 April Update

The latest charts, compiled 21 April as the third wave has started.

Vaccinations: Overall, Canada and most provinces continue to be comparable to EU countries.

Trendline charts

Infections per million: Recent spikes in Ontario and Alberta are more apparent.

Deaths per million: No major changes save for Italy now ahead of UK.

Vaccinations per million: Vaccination rates in Canadian provinces increasing more quickly than overall G7 less Canada countries. Increases among immigration source country reflect China and India mass vaccination roll-out.

Weekly

Infections per million: Surge in Ontario means province has more infections than Prairies.

Deaths per million: Italy ahead of UK.

India is grappling with rapid increase in cases which will likely show-up in their relative ranking over the next few weeks:

Authorities said hospitals in the Indian capital of Delhi would start running out of medical oxygen by Wednesday as Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the country faced a coronavirus “storm” overwhelming its health system.

Major government hospitals in the city of 20 million people had between eight and 24 hours’ worth of oxygen while some private ones had enough for just four to five hours, said Delhi’s deputy chief minister, Manish Sisodia.

“If we don’t get enough supplies by tomorrow morning, it will be a disaster,” he said, calling for urgent help from the federal government.

Mr. Modi said the federal government was working with local authorities nationwide to ensure adequate supplies of hospital beds, oxygen and antiviral drugs to combat a huge second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The situation was manageable until a few weeks ago. The second wave of infections has come like a storm,” he said in a televised address to the country, urging citizens to stay indoors and not panic amid India’s worst health emergency in memory.

“The central and state governments as well as the private sector are together trying to ensure oxygen supplies to those in need. We are trying to increase oxygen production and supply across the country,” he said.

Mr. Modi faces criticism that his administration lowered its guard when coronavirus infections fell to a multimonth low in February and allowed religious festivals and political rallies that he himself addressed to go ahead.

India, the world’s second-most populous country and currently the hardest hit by COVID-19, reported its worst daily death toll on Tuesday, with large parts of the country now under lockdown amid a fast-rising second surge of contagion.

The health ministry said 1,761 people had died in the past day, raising India’s toll to 180,530 – still well below the 567,538 reported in the United States, though experts believe India’s actual toll far exceeds the official count.

“While we are making all efforts to save lives, we are also trying to ensure minimal impact on livelihoods and economic activity,” Mr. Modi said, urging state governments to use lockdowns only as a last resort.

One local hospital with more than 500 COVID-19 patients on oxygen has enough supplies for only four hours, Delhi’s Health Minister Satyendar Jain said late on Tuesday.

Tata Group, one of India’s biggest business conglomerates, said it was importing 24 cryogenic containers to transport liquid oxygen and help ease the shortage in the country.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Protection has said all travel should be avoided to India, while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson cancelled a visit to New Delhi that had been scheduled for next week, and his government said it will add India to its travel “red list.”

Several major cities are already reporting far larger numbers of cremations and burials under coronavirus protocols than those in official COVID-19 death tolls, according to crematorium and cemetery workers, the media and a review of government data.

Delhi reported more than 28,000 fresh infections on Tuesday, the highest daily rise ever, with one in three people tested returning a positive result.

“The huge pressure on hospitals and the health system right now will mean that a good number who would have recovered, had they been able to access hospital services, may die,” said Gautam I. Menon, a professor at Ashoka University.

On Tuesday, the health ministry reported 259,170 new infections nationwide – a sixth day over 200,000 and getting closer to the peak of nearly 300,000 seen in the U.S. in January.

Total coronavirus cases in India are now at 15.32 million, second only to the U.S., with epidemiologists saying many more infectious new variants of the virus were one of the main factors behind the latest surge in cases.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/article-new-delhi-running-out-of-medical-oxygen-as-india-grapples-with/

Covid accelerates India’s millionaire exodus

Of note:

India’s wealthy have topped a list of people seeking to relocate abroad through visa programmes that offer citizenship or right of residence in other countries in return for investments.

There was very little Rahul (name changed) didn’t have going for him, when he made the tough call to leave India six years ago. He is the second generation scion of a well-heeled Delhi-based family. They have a flourishing exports business with a monopoly in what’s typically called a ‘sunrise sector’- an industry that has great future prospects.

But he left it all behind and moved to Dubai in 2015, to look after the company’s overseas expansion. He also got a citizenship by investment in one of the Caribbean nations. Harassment by tax authorities in India’s Enforcement Directorate was a key reason, he says.

“I could see it becoming a problem for someone who had businesses spread across the world,” he told the BBC. “With a foreign passport, the red-tape has reduced substantially. I am less worried about being slapped with a random tax demand.”

‘Tax terror’ has been a routine gripe among Indian corporate tycoons. When the founder and owner of India’s largest coffee chain, Cafe Coffee Day died in 2019, he accused a former director general of the income tax department of harassing him. But the government has continued to tighten its noose around business owners in recent years.

According to one report, tax searches by India’s income tax department have more than trebled in the last few years.

The government has argued this is being done to eradicate “black money – illegal cash, hidden from the tax authorities – and improve tax compliance. But critics say the overreach is also often on account of pressure on bureaucrats to meet revenue targets.

But hounding by the taxman was just one reason for his move, says Rahul. His decision was also prompted by a growing trend of “divide and rule politics” in India, he told us. He didn’t want his kids to grow up in India’s increasingly polarised environment.

Many others in his circle of wealthy friends were also renouncing their citizenship or resident status, he added.

These claims are borne out by figures from the wall-street investment bank Morgan Stanley. A 2018 bank report found that 23,000 Indian millionaires had left the country since 2014.

More recently, a Global Wealth Migration Review report revealed that nearly 5,000 millionaires, or 2% of the total number of high net-worth individuals in India left the country in 2020 alone. And Indians topped a list compiled by the London-headquartered global citizenship and residence advisory Henley & Partners (H&P), of those seeking citizenship or residency in other countries in return for monetary investments.

Covid-19 has been a big driver of what was an ongoing trend of wealthy Indians seeking to “globalise their lives and assets” according to H&P. So much so that the firm set up its office in India in the middle of the lockdown last year to cater to growing demand.

“I think they [clients] are realising they don’t want to wait for the second or third wave of the pandemic. They want to have their papers now that they are sitting at home. We refer to this as the insurance policy or Plan B,” Dominic Volek, Group Head of Private at Henley & Partners told the BBC on a video call from Dubai.

According to Mr Volek, the pandemic could be a game changer, because it is making the wealthy think about migration in a more holistic fashion. It is no longer just about visa-free travel, or ease of access to global markets, but about wealth diversification, better healthcare and education, to protect against the uncertainties brought about by the pandemic.

Countries like Portugal, which runs a ‘golden visa’ programme as well as countries like Malta and Cyprus are preferred destinations for India’s well heeled, according to H&P.

This exodus of big money is not necessarily permanent in nature – people merely invest money in another country as a fall-back option rather than take out all their money from their home country and cut business ties. But it doesn’t bode well for a developing nation like India, say experts.

“When this happens, they remove themselves, their entrepreneurial ability and their income and wealth from the tax base. This is likely to be detrimental in the long run. Their exit sends a poor signal about the ‘doing business climate’ in India,” says Rupa Subramanya, Distinguished Fellow at the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada.

Andrew Amoils, Head of Research at New World Wealth, a Johannesburg-based wealth intelligence group, told the Business Standard newspaper: “It can be a sign of bad things to come as high-net-worth individuals are often the first people to leave – they have the means to leave unlike middle-class citizens.”

Source: Covid accelerates India’s millionaire exodus