Treat India's COVID-19 outbreak with justice and healthcare, not racism and profiteering

India. Photo: Chocolatelr18 CC_BY_SA_4.0 Wikimedia Commons

The federal government’s decision to punish Australian citizens returning from India should be a warning to all that the ruling class does not care about ordinary people — neither in Australia nor India.

The same racism gratuitously dished out to First Nations peoples and refugees is now targetting Australians of Indian background.

Others will be in the firing line in the future if this move is not resisted now.

You know things are bad when the government’s chauvinism becomes too much even for the reactionary Andrew Bolt (who correctly described this policy racist even if he is championing a different version of nationalism).

The alternative to this racism and nationalism is to put people before profits.

No matter our individual ethnic backgrounds, everyone loses out from this demonisation.

The dramatic rise in COVID-19 and related deaths in India shows again that this virus is a serious threat that requires a coordinated global response.

Since the pandemic began, there has been a sharp tension between the government’s profits-first approach and getting business “back to normal” and a human-centred healthcare approach.

Australia has fared better than many other countries, but not because the government took a consistent healthcare approach.

The people before profit, pro-healthcare response we need today would include:

  • Ending the intellectual property rights over COVID–19 vaccines of the rich, first world pharmaceutical companies so that all countries can manufacture and administer their own or receive assistance to do that;
  • Sending medical aid, including as many vaccine doses as possible, to India now;
  • Reversing the ban on Australian citizens returning home from India and expedite the repatriation of all citizens who want to return to Australia; and
  • Establishing purpose-built quarantine facilities to replace the inadequate hotel quarantine regime for people coming to Australia.

The fact that Australia, along with other rich countries, has been resisting international calls at the World Trade Organization to scrap patent protections proves their loyalty to Big Pharma and corporate profits over ordinary people. Global solidarity requires this to be urgently reversed.

[Alex Bainbridge, Sarah Hathway and Sam Wainwright are the national co-convenors of the Socialist Alliance.]

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