Dubai: Indian expats from Kerala in the UAE and elsewhere looking forward to returning after the lockdown in India will not be allowed to go home directly, according to a new policy announcement made by the south Indian state’s health minister on Tuesday.
K.K. Shailaja, minister of Health and Social Welfare, said non-resident Keralites flying back home after the COVID-19 lockdown would be quarantined in government-arranged facilities near the airports.
“They will not be sent home to ensure the safety of their families. They will be taken to the quarantine facilities that will be arranged near the airport,” the minister told the media in Kerala.
The same policy would be applicable to Keralites returning home from other Indian states also, Kerala’s minister for Higher Education K.T. Jaleel also stated on Tuesday.
A member of the state legislative assembly from the district of Malappuram, Jaleel said even those coming from other districts would also be sent to quarantine facilities identified by the local government.
Afi Ahmed, a UAE-based Indian businessman, who has been actively involved in helping stranded visitors and others with emergency reasons wishing to return to India, said there is a huge number of Keralites in the UAE who wish to fly home as soon as the lockdown and air travel suspension are lifted.
The UAE is home to more than one million expats from the south Indian state.
Kerala has recorded 336 coronavirus cases and a total of 1,46,686 people are under observation in the state as on Tuesday.
The government has attributed its success in controlling the spread of the COVID-19 infection to its strict policy on quarantining and isolation using route maps and contact tracing of positive cases, which has earned it praise from various corners.
CM writes to ambassadors
Meanwhile, the state’s Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has written to the Indian ambassadors in the Gulf countries to submit various recommendations to support the expat Malayali community members, a statement said.
He sought the intervention of the ambassadors in addressing concerns of the community members with regard to extension of insurance schemes after the expiry of residence visa and challenges faced by families in paying school fees.
Vijayan has also appealed to the school managements in the Gulf countries to extend the time for paying school fees after a video-conference session with prominent expats from these countries.
Earlier on Monday, the chief minister expressed his concern over the rising number of causalities among the Malayali community outside Kerala.
As of Monday, 18 persons of Kerala origin had succumbed to COVID-19 infection in different countries, the maximum being eight in the USA. The Chief Minister expressed his condolences to the grieving families on behalf of the state government.
“The state government is anxious about the expat Malayalis and we are bound to help them in this hour of crisis. The central government has been informed about the difficulties faced by the expatriate Malayali community in the wake of the travel restrictions due to the lockdown.”
“There have been discussions on the steps to be taken by the Indian Embassies in respective countries to help them. The state government will engage with the expat community in addressing their concerns.”
“Expat Malayali organisations should explore the possibility of building quarantine facilities for the expatriates in their respective countries. And for those suspected cases under observation, ensure proper safety, especially for women,” he added in the statement.
How long is the quarantine?
The duration of the quarantine period is not immediately clear. However, currently Kerala is following a 28-day self-quarantine at home
for those who reached from abroad. The initial duration of 14-day self-quarantine was extended after some people developed
symptoms and tested positive for COVID-19 days after finishing the two-week quarantine without any symptoms.