Kerala’s worst fears come true with Gulf returnees driving a big spike in Covid-19 cases

Updated on May 14, 2020 08:48 PM IST

Kerala was only reporting coronavirus cases in single digits before the return of residents from abroad started along with interstate movement of people.

Stranded passangers check out from the Kochi International Airport after their arrival from Abu Dhabi by special Air India Express flight in Kochi(ANI Photo/Representative)
Stranded passangers check out from the Kochi International Airport after their arrival from Abu Dhabi by special Air India Express flight in Kochi(ANI Photo/Representative)
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram | ByRamesh Babu | Edited by Abhinav Sahay

Kerala reported a big spurt in coronavirus cases on Thursday with 26 new cases, the highest since March-end, said chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan. He said out of 26, seven were middle-east returnees and eight came from other states including Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

The state’s worst fears of a steep rise in cases with the fresh wave of residents returning from the Gulf countries and other states have come true. 22 people returning from the middle-east have tested positive so far and the number is likely to go up even further with more flights expected in the coming days.

“The sudden spurt exposes the lurking threat. We have been insisting for a strict protocol due to this. Many questioned us when we insisted for passes for those coming from other states. It is not the time to play politics,” said the CM taking a dig at three Congress MPs and two legislators who were asked to proceed on quarantine.

MPs Remya Haridas, T N Prathapan and V K Sreekandan and legislators Anil Akkara and Shafi Parambhil had visited the Kerala- Tamil Nadu border checkpost on May 9 to distribute food and other essentials to the stranded people. The district medical board has asked them to proceed on a 14-day home quarantine after one of the youths they allegedly interacted with tested positive. The MPs later dubbed the move as “politically-motivated” but said they will go by the directive of the district administration.

“We have given instructions not to arrange any reception for those coming to the state due to the prevailing situation. Despite this, some leaders rushed to the border post and interacted with many. This should have been avoided. It is no time to play politics,” he said. But the MPs said it was a politically- laced move.

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“We will go by the directive of the administration. But we suspect some foul play in this. The youth collapsed in the morning and when TV channels reported this, we went there in the afternoon. He was tested positive on May 11. We feel it is a move aimed at cornering us,” said Palakkad MP V K Sreekandan adding the CPI (M) district committee had raised a demand to send him and others in quarantine two days ago.

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The state, which is maintaining a healthy graph with high recovery and low mortality rates, pressed the emergency button as the exodus of expatriates from middle-eastern countries and other states began. The fact that most of the returnees from Arab nations other than the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were not tested before starting journey has aggravated concerns.

“It is a critical phase for the state. In the last few days, we had only single-digit cases and some days were free of cases. Social distancing, masks and hand-hygiene have become part of our life. There is no escape from them now. We have to go by the directives of health officials and I am sure we will overcome this,” said the CM.

Kerala has a total of 560 positive cases, including 64 active cases under treatment in hospitals.

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