Kerala virus
Medical officers measure body temperature of passengers at a railway station in Kochi on March 16. Image Credit: ANI

Thiruvananthapuram: The non-resident Keralites (NRKs), once the darling of the state, are now the ones who are facing the music as the battle against deadly coronavirus rages on.

According to studies, currently there are 2.5 million Keralites who are migrants, 90 per cent of them work in the Middle East, while there are another two million who are Keralites, but hold passports of other countries.

For long they have provided strength to the state’s economy, but today they have turned as the scourge, as a huge majority of the positive cases in the past few days are NRKs, while a good number in isolation are the ones who have arrived mostly from the Middle East, or those who have had direct contacts.

Incidentally, the country’s first case was reported from Kerala, when a woman medical student, studying in Wuhan, China, arrived, in the last week of January.

The state health department immediately put its act together, and to a large extent was able to stem the spread and when things appeared to have slowed down, they turned for the worse, when three who came from Italy, at Ranni in Pathanamthitta district on February 29, celebrated their return to their hometown, a normal custom that the NRKs indulge in.

The end result was, six of them including the three turned coronavirus positive and since the second week of March, the number of positive cases has been on the rise among the NRKs.

On Monday, of the 28 new positive cases, 25 of them came from the Middle East, same was the case the previous day also.

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Things have gone worse at Kasargode, when a resident arrived from Middle East, last week and after landing at the Kozhikode airport visited friends and attended marriages, forcing a peeved Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to openly express his displeasure at the way this NRK behaved. “He hugged a legislator and shook hands with another legislator and today both of them are now in isolation,” he said.


people from Kasargode have tested positive for coronavirus in the past week

In the past one week of the total 71 positive cases, 38 of them are from Kasargode, most of whom contracted the virus from from NRKs.

Also in the past week, there has been a huge inflow of NRKs, many of whom are under observation.

There are 63,937 people under observation in the state now.

Jump in numbers

There was a near 50 per cent increase in these numbers in the past one week, with, NRKs in good numbers.

At the state capital, especially in the coastal areas, there has been a huge influx of NRKs and a few days back, with the local populace getting anxious of those NRKs hanging around at beaches, approached the local bodies to express their displeasure.

Soon action came and a warning was sent out, that if they cannot remain in self isolation, then arrests would have to be made.

Vijayan also made it very clear while announcing the lockdown. He said if necessary, they will not only act tough, but all those who have arrived from abroad will be tracked and violators dealt with in the most serious way - including arrests and fines.

Now with all international and domestic flights cancelled, the authorities are keeping their fingers crossed on the test results which are expected to come in the coming week, as this would mostly be the ones of the NRKs and those who have come in close contact with them.