Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday took a strong position saying that all the Kerala diaspora who wish to travel to the state either on Vande Bharat Mission flights or chartered flights will have to undergo a COVID test.
This position is contradictory to the statement made by the lone Keralite Union Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan who said if the state government insists then flights will have to be cancelled, adding that no other state is putting up such a demand.
“We have been saying this for long to the Centre and it’s their responsibility to see that adequate testing arrangements are made through the Indian Embassies in the various countries. We do not want anyone who does not have this disease to get it and hence all those coming to Kerala from abroad have to undergo a COVID test before they start their travel,” said Vijayan.
“One Union Minister (Muraleedharan) is part of a campaign to show Kerala is against its own diaspora. What I wish to say that none should play politics with the lives of people,” said Vijayan.
Reading out statistics, Vijayan said 1.5 per cent of those coming from abroad are turning COVID positive and now around two lakh Kerala diaspora have registered to return.
“If we assume two per cent to turn positive, then the figure would be 4,000 cases. With this, there could be a spurt in contact spread and this would lead to a community spread in our state. Starting June 20 there are 420 flights which are scheduled to bring our people and it includes 171 under the Vande Bharat Mission, 149 chartered flights and 100 SpiceJet flights,” added Vijayan.
Vijayan said SpiceJet has made it clear that it will carry only those passengers who come with a COVID test result. He said if SpiceJet is doing that, the Centre can also do that.
“The Centre made the arrangement when our people were brought from Italy and hence they should do in countries where test facilities are not there. In Qatar, the rule is that all those who move out in public places will have an App, with a green status, so in that country, our people will have no issues. In the UAE, they have the facility for conducting a rapid test and in other countries, the Centre should see that it is done,” said Vijayan.
The first flight carrying Kerala diaspora arrived on May 7 and since then till now 84,195 people have arrived.
“On May 7, the fresh positive cases were just 16 and since then till Tuesday, 2,697 positive cases have been registered. We have to take care and for that testing has to be done,” said Vijayan.
Vijayan has come under fire from not just the Congress-led opposition and the BJP, but also representatives from the Kerala diaspora for his strong position on testing.
Leader of Opposition in the Kerala Assembly Ramesh Chennithala will stage a day-long protest in front of the State Secretariat on Friday to protest the manner in which the Centre and the State are showing a negative attitude towards the Kerala diaspora.
“This is a very cruel attitude being taken against the diaspora. By now, 230 Keralites have died abroad due to COVID and here it’s a foolish stand taken by Vijayan who is trying to pass the buck on the Centre and we demand that the normal test is all what is required for anyone who wishes to travel and should not demand a COVID negative test result, this is impractical,” said Chennithala.