Expats rush to Kerala; officials fail to set up quarantine facilities
Thiruvananthapuram: Amid the coronavirus outbreak, the state government has not restricted any repatriation flights or persons from entering Kerala. The government did not change the stance in the repatriation of expats stranded abroad, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had repeated this statement the other day also. But the government was not successful in arranging quarantine facilities as a large number of expats are arriving in the state day by day.
Wide arrangements in the initial phase
When the central government took initiative to repatriate the stranded expats, the Kerala government arranged facilities for the safe quarantine of the returnees. As per this plan, the returnees were asked to undergo institutional quarantine for 7 days and home quarantine for the next 7 days. A special bus was also arranged to travel from the airport to the quarantine centre. Police followed this bus and private vehicles of expats to monitor whether they are violating quarantine norms.
People with slight fever were taken to the nearest government hospitals and samples were collected for COVID-19 test before sending them to quarantine centre.
At the quarantine centres, free food prepared in community kitchen was served. Local governing bodies arranged essential items like bucket, bed, oil and towel for each one. Over 100 volunteers were deployed to assist and observe the expats at the centre. Police patrolling was also strengthened to assure that no expat walked out from the centre.
Interestingly, the Chief Minister appealed to the public to observe their neighbours who are on home- quarantine. Many facilities were provided to the expats who were quarantined.
But at present, even a volunteer is not available at the centre. It seems the government is no more interested in providing quarantine facilities to the returnees.
The reality of quarantine facilities
The quarantine facilities assured by the government faced a major setback when the number of returning expats increased every day. Without bothering about the controversies, the government decided to place people without symptoms or disease in home-quarantine. People who tested positive for the virus were housed at COVID centres. Paid quarantine facility was also arranged for those who have no facilities at home.
Suddenly, the institutional quarantine facilities of the government disappeared within a few days. At present, the officials have taken a firm stand that all returnees should be housed in a district-level single quarantine centre as only a few people are observing quarantine at the centres arranged by local bodies. But this decision will lead to many problems.
Earlier, the government declared that Kerala has the facilities to quarantine 2.5 lakh people at a time. Now, the present situation raises suspicion over the government’s claims on the wide quarantine facilities.
Expats who return to Kerala due to job loss and expired visa are forced to wait at the airports or buses for quarantine facility.
Lapses in arranging quarantine facilities
With the relaxations in lockdown, the government and political parties are focusing on the upcoming local body elections. Hence, the quarantine of expats is no more their priority.
Public also assume that the government is helpless as COVID-19 cases are increasing to a large extent.
No discussion was held between the public representatives including MLAs and representatives of expats regarding the quarantine facilities. All arrangements are being done as per the interest of some officials. Senior officials point out this fact as a major drawback in arranging quarantine centres.
When COVID-19 test was not carried out widely, people thought that Kerala is safe. But now, the situation changed a lot, added the officials.