Six heartbreaking words from a member of the Q&A audience has encapsulated the devastation of COVID-stricken India, and highlighted the urgent need to get Australians home.
Audience member Farida made an emotional plea for answers regarding why the government isn’t working harder to bring Australians home, revealing her brother died from in Delhi last week while working on the frontline as fatalities continue to surge to horrifying heights across the country.
“Last week I lost my brother,” she began as the hushed crowd hung on her every word.
“He was a doctor and he was serving homeless patients. He passed away due to the shortage of beds and oxygen in the hospitals. Mismanagement of essential needs has taken his life.”
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She continued: “The government is in denial and even is blocking the social media in this issue. Now the growing crisis in India … Australians are there and we are worried about them.
“All I want to know is why is the Australian government not doing anything in bringing them back? “
Asked by host Hamish Macdonald what it’s like watching the situation unfold from afar, she said it was “devastating.”
“Yes, it is very devastating. And it’s very heartbreaking. I just can’t explain.”
Describing her brother’s tireless work in battling the virus, she said: “Night after night he used to go to the places where these homeless people are and he used to visit individually.”
But it was her concern for Australians stranded in India that rung through.
“I don’t want my Australian fellows not to go on. They should be brought home as soon as possible because the crisis is growing … They say the peak has not come.”
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Throwing to the panel, it was writer Parnell Palme McGuinness’s response that incited applause from the audience, calling for compassion over politics.
“I am so, so sorry to hear about your brother. And I agree – I think we need to bring people home as quickly as we can. I think it’s so important for the Australian government to say these are our residents, these are our citizens, and they are in trouble and we need to help them come home,” she said.
“I think it’s devastating that flights have been cut rather than increased lately. Partly because hotel quarantine has been so effective here, that we actually could say we can bring people in.
“Our hotels at the moment are at 50 per cent occupancy. There is no reason why a city like New South Wales, which has handled hotel quarantine very well, couldn’t take in those people. I am glad they are bringing Howard Springs on, I am glad there are other facilities being built. But there are facilities who can help people.”
She continued: “This is a decision about cutting off flights, which is just unconscionable. They are flying supplies to make vaccine and provide oxygen to India. And the planes are coming back empty.
“They need to be coming back filled with people. They need to be coming back filled with people who need help, who can be put in the facilities which exist right now and treated and why we are not doing that is politics.
“It’s down to pure politics. I frankly don’t care whether this is politics at a state level or politics at a federal level. They’ve got to stop playing politics and sort this out. Because this is Australian citizens. They have a right to come home and they need our help.”