Annastacia Palaszczuk's comments about COVID-19 travel overseas perplexes Queensland's Indian community

© Provided by ABC Health Pooja Manchanda, who has a two-year-old son with husband Sahil Garg, has no other family support in Australia. (Supplied)

Pooja Manchanda hasn’t been home to see her family in nearly three years.

“All the family is back home in India, so here in Australia it’s just me, my husband and my son now,” she said

Her son has spent the first two years of his life without meeting his extended family.

“It makes it a little … more difficult for people like us — we don’t have support when we really need it,” she said.

“All through my pregnancy — and of course the first few days and weeks of motherhood — when you don’t know what’s happening, how you’re supposed to deal with the baby and everything, that’s the time when you really miss your family.”

‘Where are you going to go?’

When asked about international travel yesterday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk shot back at reporters.

“Well, where are you going to go? Are you going to go to India?” she said.

“In Tokyo you have to sit in Perspex screens with masks on, and if you remove your mask you can’t talk while you’re eating.

“Yes in Europe some people are travelling. I think the federal government needs to identify very clearly what are the countries that Australians can travel to.”

Ms Manchanda said those comments were uncalled for.

“Just to pinpoint one nation out of the others, I don’t think that was really called for, and in a position like hers,” Ms Manchanda said.

Rachita Narula wants to know why the Premier singled out India.

“Why only India?” she said.

“I feel so many people living here in Australia, they do have families in Europe and other parts of Asia as well and yes, we have to meet our families, we need to go to India.”

Not about travelling, but reuniting with family

For Ms Narula, it’s not about taking a holiday but seeing her elderly parents who live alone and her in-laws who were both hospitalised with COVID-19.

 

“It is tough I cannot deny that, because my parents are all by themselves and they are old,” she said.

“My dad had a stroke a few years ago and he’s paralysed, he doesn’t drive.

“My mum doesn’t drive at all and they’re in a small town in India and accessibility to basics is not so easy there.”

It’s a tough situation for Ms Manchanda.

“Of course we try to do video calls and face time … but nothing can replace a physical touch.”

Asking for an explanation

Shyam Das, the president of the Federation of Indian Communities of Queensland, said there were roughly 75,000 people within Queensland’s Indian community and many are disappointed with the Premier’s comments.

“Why [is] India always being singled out?” he said.

“The pandemic isn’t only happening in India — it’s happening all over the world.”

He would like the Premier to explain “in what context she used that word India”.

“If that clarification is not up to what we are expecting, then definitely an apology would be good,” Mr Das said.

Ms Manchanda would like to see Ms Palaszczuk to explain her comments.

“…There could be a reasonable or rationale in her mind, which wasn’t clear which wasn’t expressed so yes, she definitely needs to express it a little bit more.”

‘Sincere best wishes for India’

In a statement to the ABC, a spokesperson for the Premier’s office said Ms Palaszczuk was highlighting “the problem of approving international travel anywhere, if the federal government doesn’t identify which countries Australians could travel to”.

“As general examples of countries, which unfortunately have had high levels of COVID cases, she mentioned India and Japan, but there are many countries with COVID outbreaks which would similarly make travel problematic,” the spokesperson said.

“The Premier has clearly conveyed Queensland’s sincere best wishes for India, including a $2 million donation to the Red Cross in May this year following a meeting with leaders of the Indian community.”

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