Central and state government ministers and officers on duty arriving from other states have been exempted from institutional quarantine, announced the Karnataka government on Monday.
These exemptions were allowed in an addendum to the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) issued by the Department of Health and Family Welfare Services and made public on Monday, hours after the controversy over Union Minister Sadananda Gowda's refusal to go into institutional quarantine became public.
Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers Sadananada Gowda, who arrived in Bengaluru from New Delhi on Monday, did not go into institutional quarantine and instead defended his actions stating that there were exemptions for ministers.
Justifying his actions, Sadananda Gowda said he came under the exempted category being in-charge of pharmaceuticals, an essential sector. â€śPractically, the guidelines are applicable to each and every citizen, I do concede. But certain persons are exempted from quarantining, those who hold certain responsible posts,â€ť the minister had said.
â€śSee, I have the Aarogya Setu app. In the app, see, it is green, you are safe. Apart from this, I used to attend office in Delhi and once every 3-4 days, the doctors in AIIMS checked me also,â€ť he said. Pointing out that as Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers, he oversees the pharmaceutical sector, Sadananda Gowda told ANI,â€ť If I donâ€™t supply medicines, what will happen? Coronavirus will double, triple. I have a meeting with other ministers at 4 pm to check the supply of medicines. If I am quarantined, then who will ensure all this? They cannot equate me with other persons.â€ť
He also added, â€śI could have come from Delhi by some other chartered flight. But being a minister, I chose to travel only when the flights started, and when I am exempted under the clause by the state and the Centre.â€ť
Gowda had also mentioned exemptions given to ministers and other officials however, the addendum to the SOP issued on 23 May (Saturday) was only made public on Monday night.
"The ministers of Union Government or state governments or officers on their official duty who are travelling across states will be exempted from requirements of quarantine as has been done for health professionals and others," the addendum said.
Airline crew who are on official duty and any person holding a negative COVID-19 test certificate would also not require to undergo the mandatory seven days institutional quarantine stipulated in the SOP issued on Friday for inter-state passengers coming from states with a high number of coronavirus cases.
Any person who gets a negative COVID test certificate (from ICMR approved lab) which is not more than two days old from the date of journey will also be exempted from the requirement of institution quarantine, it said. "Such a person will be asked to go for 14 days of home quarantine," the addendum stated.
The state government's SOP issued last week had said returnees from states with high COVID-19 caseload -- Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh -- coming via road, rail and air will be kept in institutional quarantine for seven days.
After the returnees test negative for the disease in pool testing, they will be sent for home quarantine for another seven days. Returnees from other low prevalence states will be asked to follow 14 days of home quarantine.
In special cases like businessmen coming for urgent work, the quarantine period will be waived if they furnish a report from an ICMR-approved laboratory showing they tested negative for COVID-19 and should not be more than two days old from the date of travel.
With PTI inputs