The Kerala government has made it compulsory from June 20 for Non-Resident Keralites (NRKs) returning from the Middle East via chartered flights to the state to show medical certificates stating that they have tested negative for coronavirus. The decision has drawn flak from the opposition, the Congress-led UDF.
With some NRKs also raising concerns, the Kerala government has requested the Indian Ambassadors in the Middle East to inform it of the testing infrastructure, cost, and protocols available in the Gulf, NORKA (Non-Resident Keralites Affairs) Principal Secretary Dr K Ellangovan, told PTI. A private airline had insisted on the certificates, he said.
The Hindu reported a government official as saying that the state government was forced to issue such an order as "arrivals had contributed majorly to the increase in COVID-19 caseload in Kerala.”
According to the report, Dr K Ellangovan, in a letter to PV Radhakrishnan Pillai, the president of Bahrain Keraleeya Samajam, has said that only passengers who have tested negative for coronavirus could travel to Kerala.
"The danger is if an infected person comes in the flight, he/she will infect all the co-passengers. Only after we understand the views of the ambassadors will a decision be taken,” Dr Ellangovan told PTI.
Ellangovan said COVID-19 cases were increasing in Kerala and about 89 per cent of those infected were those who had returned from abroad.
"So we have to take precautions for the health of the people of the state," he added.
Hitting out at the government, Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said it is "strange" that the LDF government, which had earlier passed a resolution in the assembly against the Centre for insisting on COVID-negative certificates, had now taken a similar decision. Chennithala demanded that the decision be reconsidered.
The Kerala Assembly had on March 12 passed a unanimous resolution against the Union government's circular barring the return of Indians from coronavirus-hit countries, such as Italy, unless they produced a certificate that proves they have tested negative for the infection. The resolution moved by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said the circular was "inhuman" and was akin to "cruelly abandoning" expatriate Indians.
"There was no such stipulation for those returning by flights of the Vande Bharat mission and the decision is likely to cause immense hardships,” Chennithala said.
Most of the NRKs returning to India had lost their jobs and were able to come back to the state following help from various quarters, he said, adding that insisting on the certificates would further create problems for them.
IUML leader P K Kunhalikutty has also criticised the government decision on the COVID-19 negative certificates.
(With inputs from PTI)