Kerala CM, junior minister spar over evacuation of expatriates amid spike in Covid-19 cases
After the union minister’s statement there was outrage in the state and the Congress-led opposition parties had launched an agitation against the state government.Updated: Jun 04, 2020 00:27 IST
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday refuted Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan’s charge that the state wants to go slow on evacuation of expatriates and limit the number of flights from the middle-eastern countries.
“We neither put any condition nor sought go- slow on this. I don’t know why people holding responsible positions are creating such confusion. I heard the union government had some problem in dispatching too many flights,” the CM said while asked about his statement.
After the union minister’s statement there was outrage in the state and the Congress-led opposition parties had launched an agitation against the state government. At least 160 people from the state died in the Middle-East due to Covid-19 in the last three months and they held the government responsible for this.
When contacted Muraleedharan reiterated his charges: “I stand by what I said. Let the CM first read letters he sent to the Centre. The state government had expressed its inability to make arrangements to receive more passengers. If need be, I can furnish copies of the letter he sent,” he said adding the Union government was ready to fly 24 flights daily to evacuate stranded people in the Gulf.
Hailing from the state, earlier, the minister had questioned the low testing rates of Kerala and accused the CM of fudging data to maintain the record. It is a fact when comparing to other states, Kerala’s testing rates are poor-- 71,303 tests as on May 3 whereas its neighbours Tamil Nadu and Karnataka had crossed 2.50 lakh tests.
Meanwhile the state reported 82 fresh Covid-19 cases taking the total number of cases to 1,494. Out of 82 cases, 53 are expatriates, 19 came from other states and others transmitted locally, said the CM adding 832 people are undergoing treatment in hospitals. Among the infected are five health workers. The state had reported 12 deaths so far.
At least, 32 medical workers including 19 doctors have been asked to proceed on quarantine after an accident victim who died on Tuesday tested positive for coronavirus in Thiruvananthapuram. This is the first time such a large number of medical workers are in quarantine in the state since the pandemic began in January.
A 77-year-old priest Father K G Verghese who was undergoing treatment after a road accident died of Covid-19 on Tuesday. After the accident in April, he was admitted to a local hospital and later shifted to the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College Hospital after his condition worsened. Nobody including his family members have any idea how he contracted the disease and officials say it is difficult to identify his contacts now.
“Sharp rise in cases is a real concern. After the return of expatriates and people stranded in other parts of the country we expected a hike. Imported cases are OK; we can’t do anything in such cases. But we have to ensure local transmission is not taking place,” said Health Minister K K Shailaja adding doctors’ quarantine will not affect functioning of hospitals.
In April, Kerala was on the verge of flattening the virus curve but cases escalated after the return of expatriates and others. Kerala was the first state to report a coronavirus case in the country in January-- a China-returned medical student. Though testing is very low it managed the disease well with high recovery and low mortality rates, statistics show.