The Kerala government on Sunday urged the Centre to ensure that Indian embassies make arrangements for a Covid-19 test for expats flying home on chartered flights. The move comes days after the state came under fire from expatriates and opposition parties for making a Covid-negative certificate mandatory to fly back home from the Gulf.
While Kerala had so far managed to control the Covid-19 graph, there is anxiety in households across the state with respect to their relatives in West Asian countries.
According to reports, 220 people from Kerala have died of Covid-19 in the region.
On Sunday, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said the Centre should ensure the availability of test kits in countries where expats live, and Indian embassies should be entrusted with the task of conducting the Covid-19 test for those who cannot afford it.
In the letter, Vijayan said infected people and others should not be allowed to travel together, and special flights should be considered for those who have tested positive for the virus.
Health Minister K K Shailaja said the Covid-negative certificate was made obligatory on safety grounds. “Positive cases boarding flights would increase infectivity. However, the state would factor in the suggestion of the Union government in this regard. The Chief Minister would discuss the issue with the Prime Minister during their video conference on Tuesday,’’ she said.
On June 11, the state government’s NORKA ROOTS — the department for the welfare of non-resident Keralites — told the sponsors of chartered flights from West Asian countries that Covid-negative certificates should be mandatory for all passengers from June 20. The test was made a condition for operating chartered flights, and the decision was communicated to the Ministry of External Affairs.
Abu Laise Edappal, a social worker among migrants in Dubai, said, “At first, the Union government failed to address the expats’ issue by suspending flight operations in March. Now, the state government has also abandoned us… we suspect there is a concerted attempt to bring down the flow of expats.
“Only few services have been operated under Vande Bharat. The chartered flights have been the last ray of hope for many persons, although ticket rates were high. Many cannot afford the Covid test… More people would be left to die here due to this stand of the government,” he said.
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