Kerala makes Covid-free tag must for West Asia returnees

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Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram | Published: June 14, 2020 2:09:05 am

kerala passengers, norka roots, coronavirus Kochi: Passengers arrive from Dubai by an Air India flight at Kochi International Airport, (PTI Photo)

With over one lakh expatriates expected to reach Kerala from West Asian countries on chartered flights in coming weeks, the Kerala government has made it mandatory that those boarding the flights must produce a certificate stating they have tested negative for Covid-19.

The state has so far given sanction for 750 chartered flights for various agencies.

The letter issued by NORKA ROOTS, the non-resident Keralite welfare affairs department, to the agencies and institutions concerned, stated that starting June 20, all chartered flights to Kerala from countries in West Asia shall only carry passengers who tested negative for Covid-19.

The direction by the department’s principal secretary Dr E Ellangovan stated that this condition applies to all flights for which consent letters have earlier been issued. For cases in which a Covid-19 patient requires urgent medical care, air ambulance provision may be availed, it stated.

NORKA ROOTS vice-chairman K Varadarajan said, “When thousands are scheduled to return to Kerala… we have to take precautionary steps. We have already given sanction for 750 flights. Passengers have to take antibody test. If a large number of infected persons reach Kerala, it would be difficult for the state… those at the homes of returnees would also be exposed,” he said.

In his letter to the agencies which received consent to run chartered flights, Dr Ellangovan said the overall infection rate among returnees has risen to 3 per cent — as high as 6 per cent in case of a few countries. It said this shows that co-passengers who were not infected earlier have been exposed to those infected during travel. This would lead to an alarming spread of the disease in Kerala, stated the letter.

The government fears that the number of positive cases from returnees will increase in coming days, as 60 per cent belong to vulnerable categories.

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said the condition was impractical and would pose trouble. He said it many couldn’t afford the tests. “The government should not forget that the state Assembly had unanimously passed a resolution in March this year to bring back all Indians from Italy and Republic of Korea without Covid-19 test. This should be revoked,” he said.

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