Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday requested the Centre to make arrangements to carry out COVID-19 testingfor those returning from various countries through Indian embassies abroad.
In a letter written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vijayan said the government should ensure the availability of testing kits for expats and that the embassies should be given the task of testing them for free.
"If there is no facility for PCR tests, at least rapid tests should be done. A situation where a COVID-19 positive person travelswith non-infected persons should be avoided," Vijayan said in his letter, adding that the central government should consider operating special flights to bring back the COVID-19 patients alone.
The letter comes in the backdrop of theLeft-run government making COVID-19 negative certificates mandatory from June 20 for Non-Resident Keralites in the gulf region taking chartered flights to the state, a decision which drew flak from the opposition Congress led UDF.
Earlier, the UDF had pointed out that the government had adopted a resolution in the state assembly against the Centre's decision to ask for a COVID-19 negative certificate from those returning from abroad.
With some NRKs raising concerns on the matter, the 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 K Ellangovan had told PTI.
Meanwhile, State Health Minister K K Shailaja told the media on Sunday that there were chances that a COVID-19 positive person travelling in a flight, might infect other passengers.
"The state government wants everyone to reach the state safely.The chief minister has earlier clarified that any decision will be taken after the Prime Minister's meeting with CMs on Tuesday," Shailaja said.
She further said efforts were on to prevent the community spread of the virus and till now the government has managed to keep cases through contacts under 10 per cent.
"We cannot conclusively say that community spreadwill never happen. We were able to keep away the threat of community spread till now.
To continue this, we need to work together. This means, we need to be more careful. The latest report shows that we have only 10 per cent of cases due to contact. We need to bring it down to five per cent," the minister said.
Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, however, termed as "unfortunate" the demand for COVID-19 negative certificates for those returning to the state from abroad.
"We demand the Vande Bharat mission protocol to be followed while bringing back the expats.
However, the health minister is stating otherwise. The voluntary organisations are helping those who are unable to purchase a ticket. It's not fair asking them to conduct a COVID-19 test," Chennithala said in a release.
The Kerala Assembly had on March 12 passed an unanimous resolution against the central government's circular barring the return of Indians from coronavirus-hit countries unless they produced a certificate that proves they have tested negative for the infection.