Special request goes out from Kerala CM to PM Modi, to battle pandemic

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has written to prime minister Narendra Modi to consider arranging flights, exclusively for bringing COVID-19 infected Malayali patients from other countries.

The move comes amid the controversy over the state government’s decision to make COVID-19 negative certificates mandatory for all expatriates coming from the Gulf countries on chartered flights.

In the letter, Pinarayi Vijayan said the central government could ensure the availability of test kits in countries having large Indian diaspora. The embassies should be entrusted with the responsibility of holding tests for those unable to undergo tests at their own expense, he said.

“If there is any difficulty in holding PCR tests, facilities for conducting rapid tests should be arranged. This is to avoid a situation of COVID-19-positive people mingling with those without infection,” the letter said.

But Indian Medical Association’s (IMA) state secretary Dr P Gopikumar said enclosed spaces are to be considered as a hotbed for transmission of the virus, and hence the state should think twice about bringing COVID-19-positive people. Plus, this would also place the flight crew at risk, he said.

Health Minister KK Shailaja, however, said a final decision on making COVID-19 negative certificates mandatory for expats will be taken only after the meeting of the prime minister with various chief ministers on Tuesday.

“The state has only put forth a suggestion and has not taken any decision. The suggestion was mooted considering safety of people coming to the state,” she said. Earlier, the state had made it clear that from June 20, all private chartered flights departing to Kerala from West Asian countries should carry only passengers who have been tested negative for COVID-19.

A test certificate to that effect should be carried by the passenger. Former chief minister Oommen Chandy, in a letter to Pinarayi, had demanded that this clause be withdrawn.