Kerala has granted permission to private airlines to bring home expats stranded abroad, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Wednesday.
“We have granted permission to SpiceJet to operate 300 flights to Kerala. They will fly 10 aircrafts a day for a month. Passengers who test negative for coronavirus will be allowed to fly, as per SpiceJet’s rules,” the Chief Minister said. Additionally, the state has allowed a private airline operator in Abu Dhabi to operate 40 chartered flights to Kerala.
Pinarayi highlighted that Kerala had never said no to any flight bringing home expats stuck abroad due to the pandemic. His statement was in response to V Muraleedharan, Union Minister of State for External Affairs, who alleged that Kerala had restricted the number of flights entering the state saying that it could not screen passengers en masse.
“The Centre had scheduled 360 flights for June to Kerala. However, from June 3 to 10, only 36 flights have been scheduled by the Centre despite Kerala allowing all flights. Other than Vande Bharat, Kerala has also given permission for 40 chartered flights to bring home expats. But since June 2, only 14 flights have been scheduled,” the Chief Minister explained, adding that the Centre cannot be criticised as it is a tough task to coordinate so many flights.
He said that Kerala has so far welcomed 24,333 people via flights and 14,88 people via ships ever since the Vande Bharat mission began on May 8.
Regarding chartered flights arranged for expats to travel back to Kerala, the CM Pinarayi said that “companies or other organisations/groups are free to arrange flights back for immigrants without any restrictions.”
However, airline operators who are charging passengers and arranging chartered flights a) can only charge airfare equivalent to the airfare on Vande Bharat missions, b) priority should be given to the categories specified by the government (those who lost jobs, pregnant women, children, aged, persons with comorbidities etc.)
82 new cases on Wednesday
Kerala reported 82 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. 24 people recovered and tested negative in the state.
Here are the details.
A total of 1,60,304 people are under observation for COVID-19 in the state. Out of this, 1,440 people have been hospitalised. On Wednesday, 241 people were admitted to hospitals across the state.
CM announces landfill for sanitary waste
CM Pinarayi announced that the state would be setting up a landfill for abiotic solid waste. The sanitary landfill will come up on 25 acres of land on the Ernakulam Petrochemical Park owned by the Kerala Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (KINFRA). The work will begin after a clearance is obtained from the Directorate of Environment and Climate Change.
The Chief Minister added that the Jal Jeevan Mission in collaboration with the Centre to ensure drinking water supply to rural houses across the state will be complete by 2024.
Highway widening works too have been kickstarted in the state.