The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has told the Government of Kerala that its guidelines that expatriates returning home from Persian Gulf countries should wear personal protection equipment (PPE) to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are impractical for the ministry to implement. “We’ll be observing standard operating protocols (SOPs) issued by Home and Health Ministries. The SOPs say that expatriates will have to follow the SOPs being implemented in those countries. Kerala government’s guidelines are impractical for the MEA to implement,” Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said today.
As many as 149 Vande Bharat and 171 chartered flights will land in Kerala with expatriates in the next two weeks. “Kerala government has issued some special guidelines for the expatriates who want to return to Kerala from Gulf countries. Regarding this, MEA has informed the government that state-specific protocols cannot be implemented,” the union minister said.
The Kerala government, the guidelines of which had earlier said that expatriates should have COVID-free certificates before flying home, scrapped that demand yesterday — after the Centre said tests are not feasible in Indian missions — but insisted that passengers will have to wear PPE during the flights.
The state government had held that COVID-free certificates were a must because most of Kerala’s coronavirus cases were people who had come from abroad or other states.
The state’s guidelines had drawn fire from the opposition and the expatriates as insensitive.
Guidelines fail to plug holes in state border
Meanwhile, the Kerala High Court on Thursday directed the state government and authorities concerned to consider as a representation plea seeking directions to move the COVID-19 checkpoints, to screen those coming from Tamil Nadu, close to the border.
A bench of Justice VG Arun said that the plea, which highlights that the checkpoints are located far away from the border and allow people to avoid screening by deviating through byroads and forest roads, requires serious consideration by the district collector.
The high court directed the Kollam district collector to expeditiously consider as a representation the plea, filed by five residents of Aryankavu, for moving the checkpoints closer to the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border from the present location that is three km away.