Three days into the exercise to bring home expatriates stranded abroad, two people from Kerala, who were among the first batch of evacuees from the Middle East, tested positive for Covid-19.
Of the two persons who tested positive, one, a 24-year-old, was on the Abu Dhabi to Kochi flight on Thursday night, while the other person, a 39-year-old, had landed in Kozhikode from Dubai the same night. There were 181 passengers (including four children) on the flight from Abu Dhabi, while the flight from Dubai had 181 (including five children).
Announcing the two new cases at his daily press briefing, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said it was “alarming” that they tested positive as soon as they landed, showing they were infected before they reached the state.
Saying the new cases indicate that the state is not safe by merely controlling the spread of the infection within its borders, the CM said, “We need to strengthen our mitigation efforts and preventive measures.”
Over 4.13 lakh people from Kerala have registered with the state government to be flown back home as part of the Centre’s evacuation plan titled ‘Vande Bharat Mission’. Chief Minister Vijayan had earlier this week said that he had written to the Prime Minister, saying it was “risky” to fly back Indians stranded abroad without testing them. While the CM had sought mandatory testing for those being flown back, there are no such tests at present.
Malappuram District Collector Jafar Malik said both the people who tested positive hailed from the district. While the 39-year-old has been admitted to the Kozhikode Medical College, the 24-year-old has been undergoing treatment at the Government Medical College Hospital in Kochi. The 39-year-old has underlying medical conditions and had sought to be flown back for his treatment. On reaching the airport in Kozhikode, he was shifted to the medical college and his samples were sent for test on Friday morning.
The district collector said the 24-year-old, who landed in Kochi, had been suffering from fever for a week. On Thursday night, he was taken from the airport to the isolation unit at the Medical College Hospital in Kochi.
Health department officials said all those who travelled with the two have been quarantined either at institutions or at their homes. A special alert has been issued to keep a watch on the health of passengers who were on the two flights. Although all of them have been advised to undergo 14-day compulsory institutional quarantine, Kerala has allowed the aged, indisposed, pregnant women and children below ten to go for home quarantine.
Kerala has so far reported 505 Covid cases, of whom only 17 are under treatment. A majority of those who tested positive in the state had an international travel history.
Apart from those being flown in from other countries, Kerala’s Covid containment plan will have to factor in those travelling back to Kerala from other states. Since last Monday, when the third phase of the lockdown came into effect, Kerala has been issuing entry passes to its people stranded elsewhere in the country. As on Friday, 86,679 people had applied for these passes, of whom 43.71 per cent were from red zone districts in the country.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines