Kerala grants country-specific relief in COVID-19 negative result norm for returning home

Thiruvananthapuram, June 24 (PTI) The Kerala government on Wednesday softened its stand of pre-flight mandatory COVID-19 test for expatriates returning to the state and said all must try to get the negative certificate but those not possessing it would be subjected to Rapid Anti-body test on arrival.

In a big relief to the expatriates on the eve of expiry of its extended deadline, it issued an order laying down the new country-specific protocol for those returning from abroad, especially from the Gulf region, from Thursday taking into view non-availability of facilities in certain nations.

On Friday last, the government had extended the pre-flight mandatory COVID-19 test for those coming to the state from abroad by four days and said from June 25 all overseas travellers must get themselves tested before boarding.

The mandatory test condition had drawn criticism from various quarters including the opposition Congress.

Maintaining that it was required to ensure safety of others, the Kerala government had sought the Centre's help for providing testingfacilitiesthrough embassies in the host countries for the expatriates.

The latest order said the country-specific new protocol was being issued considering the present limitation of testinginfrastructure in Oman, Saudi Arabia and Bahrainand the intention of the state government to bring back all stranded Keralties.

'Wherever it is feasible to have any test conducted, every returnee shall make sincere efforts to get tested and travel along with the certificate. These tests should have been conducted within the least 72 hours before undertaking the travel,' the order said.

'All returnees including asymptomatic persons, who do not have proof of having undergone necessary tests will be subjected to Rapid Antibody test on their arrival at airports by authorised agencies of the Government of Kerala', it said.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the COVID-19 negative test certificate was a must for the safety of the people and all the passengers must register their details with the COVID-19 jagratha portal.

Passengers coming from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait will have to wear Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) kits, while travellers from UAE and Qatar will have to produce proof of COVID free status. They would alsohave to wear an N-95 mask, a face shield and gloves.

The expatriates from Oman and Bahrain, where testing was not possiblecan board the flight, but they should also have to wear an N-95 mask, face shield and gloves, he said.

'It's not possible for the state to interfere in the medical facilities of other countries. If the screening is not conducted, there is a chance of the virus being spread during the flight travel,' Vijayantold reporters here.

Permission had been given for 72 flights to land in the state on Wednesday alone carrying at least 14,058 people. Of these, 71 flights are from the Gulf region, he said.

'The state government wants all the Keralites to return to the state. The treatment for those who reach the state is given by the state government free of cost. We have cured those including aged persons and those with serious illness,' Vijayan said.

The chief minister had earlier said the state was not against COVID-19 positive patients returning to the state but they should be brought in a seprate flight so that they don't pose risk to other passengers. PTI RRT UD VS VS