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'Dangerous' to bring back Indians without COVID-19 tests: Kerala CM

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Thiruvananthapuram, May 05: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday urged the Centre to ensure that the NRIs who are returning to the country undergo COVID-19 tests before emplaning for their respective states.

Pinarayi Vijayan

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vijayan highlighted the state's concern on the matter. Speaking to reporters, the Chief Minister said it was"dangerous" to bring back the stranded Non-Resident Keralites (NRK)s in various countries to the state without conducting any tests for COVID-19.

The state was informed that the expatriates will not be medically examined before boarding the flight from other countries. In each flight at least 200 passengers are likely to come and in case there are one or two infected people among them, there are chances of other passengers getting infected, Vijayan said.

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There should not be any lapse in following Internationally accepted health protocols least there should be setback in the state's efforts to prevent community spread of COVID-19, he said. India has already sent three naval ships to evacuate its citizens stranded in the Maldives and UAE due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state has been making systematic preparation for the return of NRKs, Vijayan said in the letter, a copy of which was released to the media here. Though Kerala wanted the NRKs to return to their home state, there should not be any compromise with regard to observance of the "Internationally accepted health protocols".

"It is quite unfortunate that internationally accepted health protocols are not being followed while arrangements are being made for bringing back our people from countries where the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been severe," Vijayan said. People travelling by chartered aircraft should be subject to COVID-19 tests before boarding, he said.

"The consequence of not doing so will result in people who are carriers of infection travelling along with others. This will further lead to spread of the infection as and when these people come to their homes," Chief Minister said in the letter.

At least 4.27 lakh NRKs have registered in the NORKA portal, of which about 1.69 lakh people constitute the most vulnerable sections-- those who have lost their jobs, employment contract has not been renewed; those released from prisons and awaiting deportation, pregnant women, students who have completed courses and whose visa had expired.

"However, as per the list prepared by the Union government, only 80,000 NRKs are in the priority list for being brought back to the state. In the first five days, only 2,250 people are supposed to arrive at three airports in Kerala-- Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode," Vijayan said.

He also wanted passengers to be brought through the Kannur International airport as at least 69,179 people have expressed keen interest in flying there, he said.

Vijayan also said all passengers will have to spend at least seven days in quarantine after which a PCR test would be conducted and those tested negative would be allowed to go for home quarantine.

Antibody tests would also be done, he said, adding that the state has placed orders for two lakh test kits. Vijayan said that those who are coming from red zones and hotspots in other states must also undergo quarantine in the government facility for a period of seven days.

The centre has proposed to open the skies from May 7 for the expatriates who are stranded in other countries due to the lockdown.

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