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Kochi: Thermal screening of passengers Image Credit: PTI

Dubai: All Indians and foreign nationals travelling from the UAE to the south Indian state of Kerala are now being home quarantined for at least 14 days to prevent the spread of novel Coronavirus, a senior official told Gulf News.

As per a Covid-19 health advisory for the travel and tourism sector published on March 13, Kerala has implemented new home quarantine measures for all international travellers, including Indian nationals.

The advisory states that travellers arriving from a country with local transmission of COVID-19 in the last 14 days as updated in the daily situation report published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) should be quarantined in the place of their stay [homes for residents and hotels or resorts for tourists].

While passengers with high risk are being quarantined for 28 days, the duration has been reduced to 14 days for those with low risk.

The high risk category includes those who are more likely to catch the infection, not the people at risk of developing complications after catching infection. Conditions for high risk categories include contact with a positive case, visit to hospitals with positive cases etc.

The UAE is among several other countries that have reported local transmission.

Leaving no stone unturned

With the second highest COVID-19 cases in India, Kerala is leaving no stone unturned and has decided to impose quarantine measures for travellers from countries that have not reported any as well.

“There is a scientific basis for taking all these measures,” Kerala’s principal health secretary Dr Rajan N. Khobragade told Gulf News over the phone from the state capital Thiruvananthapuram.

“Our state medical board has validated this advisory especially after the huge outbreak in Italy and other European countries.”

With nearly 160 countries and territories across the world reporting positive cases of COVID-19, he said, it is becoming nearly impossible for governments to verify international passengers’ travel history to any of these countries.

The state had successfully contained infections to even primary contacts of the first three positive cases mainly because of the strict quarantine measures and hence it is continuing to follow that model, Dr. Khobragade explained.

Urging Keralites, especially the elderly, to avoid non-essential travel, he said the state has launched various awareness campaigns and is ensuring necessary support for the quarantined passengers through the panchayat [local administration department].

“If quarantined people don’t have relatives or neighbours to help them buy essential food and medicines, the panchayat members will make arrangements.”

Strange looks welcome travellers

An elderly Keralite couple, who reached Kannur from Dubai on Sunday morning, told Gulf News over the phone that they were informed about home quarantine as soon as word spread among their relatives and neihgbours that they were flying home in advance due to the COVID-19 chaos.

The couple, M. Nair and S. Devi, had come over to Dubai for their daughter’s delivery. “We were scheduled to fly back on April 18. But we decided to fly home earlier as we would be unable to source our medicines from Kerala,” said Nair.

The moment people back home got wind of their return, they were told about the quarantine as local government is making announcements about it using public address system, they said. Hence, they requested their neighbours to help buy perishable food items.

“Thankfully, a driver known to us came to collect us from the airport. We had sanitised our seats, seat belts and hands and used a mask throughout the journey. The driver also wore a mask,” said Devi.

She said they were received with “strange looks” from local people including their neighbours. “Everyone was behaving as if we are untouchables, though literally that is true. The neighbour who got us groceries kept it on our compound wall and called us up asking to pick it up from there.”

The couple said travellers have been advised to inform DISHA (Direct Intervention System for Health Awareness) helpline 1056 if they develop any symptoms.

“We got calls from DISHA workers and the health inspector in our panchayat. They have taken all our details, including passport details,” said Nair.

Their son-in-law in Dubai told Gulf News that he was worried about leaving the elderly couple alone under home quarantine.

“If any NGO has been assigned to take care of our parents’ needs, we will have better peace of mind,” he said.

American vlogger praises Kerala’s Covid-19 battle

An American YouTuber has praised the measures taken by the Kerala government in its fight against Covid-19.

“I went through the streets of Calicut to show you how amazing the Kerala government is handling this Corona Virus epidemic!!” Nikolay Timoshchuk wrote on his channel Back 2 Life.

His latest video titled “Kerala Corona Virus Update - KERALA Government Doing Great to Contain Corona Virus!!,” posted on Sunday has got more than 30,000 views and it is being widely shared by Keralites in the UAE as well.

In the more than nine-minute-long video, Nik has shown deserted roads and beach in Calicut and talked about various measures taken to stop the spread of the novel Coronavirus. He has also shown a funny demo of how people are now switching from shaking hands to Namaste [Indian way of greeting people with folded hands].

“Please everyone, respectfully stop telling me to keep traveling through Kerala right now. With the Corona Virus being an epidemic affecting the entire world, I will NOT be continuing my travels. I will be staying in or near Calicut (Kozhikode) and staying as safe as possible. Please everyone be safe out there and keep your hands and saliva to yourself. With love from Calicut, Niko ❤️,” he posted in the comments section of the video.

The former teacher, who quit his job to travel the world, is back in Kerala following his first visit in December after meeting a Malayali restaurant owner in Dubai, according to media reports.

During his first trip, he had posted videos that showed popular destinations and dishes. He had also launched an awareness campaign against littering in Kerala after one of his videos, which showed piles of plastic waste in a popular tourist attraction, went viral.