With new infections being reported in the state largely among those arriving from Gulf countries, the Kerala government Wednesday decided to tighten safety measures for expats returning to the state in order to contain the transmission of the novel coronavirus.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, at his routine press briefing in Thiruvananthapuram, announced a slew of measures for the expats returning from the six GCC countries of UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain beginning June 25.
Though the state had initially called for expats to get Covid-negative certificates before boarding flights, it has taken a step back from that position after the Centre and the respective embassies in the GCC countries expressed the inability to conduct tests for the passengers. Several expatriate organisations had also mounted protests claiming that people, who have lost their jobs and livelihoods, would not be able to afford paying for tests in addition to their flight tickets.
As part of new measures, all passengers coming from abroad must wear N-95 masks, face-shield and gloves. Sanitisers must be used at regular intervals to keep the hands clean. People travelling from Qatar must have the ‘green’ status indicating that they are safe from Covid on the Ehteraz mobile app as mandated by the government of that country.
Expats travelling from UAE must possess a Covid test certificate stating that they are free from the virus. UAE is carrying out antibody tests for everyone flying out of the country, and those flying in from Oman and Bahrain must wear N-95 masks, face-shields and gloves.
On the other hand, expats from Saudi Arabia must be dressed in PPE kits, besides following the aforementioned safety measures in order to prevent transmission of the virus to the passenger sitting next to him/her. Though Kuwait is carrying out tests at two of the terminals at its premier airport, those unable to get a test certificate must follow the safety guidelines including wearing masks, gloves and face-shields.
People flying from both countries must undergo mandatory screening at the airports in Kerala since a large number of infections are being reported from these two countries.
The Covid-negative certificates of expats must not be older than 72 hours before the time of boarding the flights. They must also register on the Covid-19 jagratha portal of the state government. Antibody tests will be carried out upon their arrival at airports in Kerala and those testing positive will be subjected to RT-PCR tests.
“90% of the infections reported in Kerala have been among those who came from abroad and other states in the country. 69% of such infections have a travel history from abroad. We cannot interfere in the health systems of foreign countries. Therefore, the first step of our intervention is the screening carried out at the airports before they board the flight. If this screening is not conducted, then the risk of infection spreading to other passengers on the flights and harming the health of everyone is high,” the chief minister said.
“The government is committed to bringing everyone who wants to return home. That’s how we have dealt with the problem at every stage,” he added.
On Wednesday, 72 flights are scheduled to land at the four international airports in the state, carrying over 14,000 people. Except one, the rest are all from the Gulf. A total of 543 flights including chartered and those that are part of the Vande Bharat mission have conducted services to the state from abroad, repatriating lakhs of people.
Kerala reported its highest daily-infections Wednesday with 152 cases. While 98 of them have travel history from abroad, 46 have arrived from other states in the country. Eight people have contracted the infection through primary contact. The state has reported 3603 infections so far, with 1691 active cases and 22 deaths.
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