Kerala SSLC exam school
Students being screened as they arrive to take the SSLC Examination at a school in Kochi on Tuesday. Image Credit: ANI

Thiruvananthapuram: The row that began on Tuesday when Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced that with the number of COVID-19 cases witnessing an upswing with arrival of Keralites from abroad, and they will now have to pay for the quarantine, intensified on Wednesday with more top leaders speaking against it.

It now appears that this outburst has made Vijayan to have a re-think.

According to the quarantine rules that Vijayan announced on Tuesday, from now on all those who return from abroad have to go for paid institutional quarantine for a week and then remain at their home for another week.

On Wednesday, two time former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said Vijayan’s somersault is an inhuman act.

“This is a shame to Kerala and a deep insult to our diaspora, who for long have been the backbone of the state’s economy. They are arriving, buying their own ticket and then adding insult to the injury, they are asked to pay for the quarantine, is simply not acceptable and it has to be reconsidered,” said Chandy.

Senior Indian Union Muslim League leader and Lok Sabha member P.K. Kunhalikutty said under no circumstances this new rule should be effected.

“If the state government cannot afford it for whatever reasons, we (the UDF) can take it up. If not, there are so many organisations who are willing to bear the cost of quarantine. A huge majority of the people who are coming are those who have lost their jobs and have no money. They will have nothing left with them at this juncture and they should no longer be taxed,” said Kunhalikutty.

Since Tuesday this issue has been raging in the state and numerous diaspora have condemned this.

The Vijayan government for long has been saying that all arrangements are ready and they have created over 150,000 beds for quarantine besides setting up 9,000 rooms including houseboats which will be used for paid quarantine.

Following the outburst from several quarters the weekly cabinet meeting chaired by Vijayan on Wednesday morning is understood to have taken this stiff resistance and an announcement is expected to be made by him, when he meets the media.

Things have gone haywire after the arrangements made for institutional quarantine came under fire from some sections of the diaspora.

There has been a spike in the number of cases and of the present 415 cases, 231 have been registered in the past four days, including 67 on Tuesday, the highest recorded in a day. Of these, 133 have come from abroad and 178 from other states.

By now just 11,189 of the 135,000 registered from abroad have returned.