Kerala Government has made all institutional quarantine facilities chargeable for anyone admitted from today, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said today.
In addition, heavy fines will be imposed on those who enter the state without a pass — in case of road travelers — and without pre-registration, incase of train and air travelers.
Since people who arrive without passes cannot be sent to their homes for quarantine, they will also have to pay for government-provided quarantine facilities, Vijayan added.
The chief minister said the policy is being changed “keeping in mind that lakhs of passengers are scheduled to come to the state” in coming weeks.
Vijayan, however, rejected the “well-intentioned advice” from doctors’ body Indian Medical Association to stop issuing entry passes to people from Coronavirus red zones such as Mumbai and Chennai.
Vijayan termed as ‘unfortunate’ railway minister Piyush Goyal’s allegation that Kerala government doesn’t seem to care about bringing back its migrant workers from places like Mumbai.
“There is no question of not allowing anyone to come back. But they have to be registered [on the portal].”
“We made only two requests to the railways,” Vijayan said. “First, the passengers should register themselves on Kerala’s portal. Second, Railways should tell us who all are coming on the train.
“We wrote to the railway minister that this approach [of sending anyone and everyone] will overturn the systems put in place for proper monitoring and prevention of COVID-19 transmission in the state. Despite that, another train was being prepared to sent in this manner,” he said.
“It was a surprising development,” he said, adding that this forced his government to take up the matter with the prime minister.
Vijayan said pre-registration of rail passengers helps Kerala government check their homes to explore the possibility of home quarantines and to train other members of the household on what precautions to avoid catching the virus from the visitors.
However, typically Indian Railways only provides the names, age and destination station of the passengers, and not details such as the address and medical conditions.
These details are, however, captured by the COVID-19 portal.
“It is not enough to just provide the passenger manifest,” Vijayan said. “We have to figure out if there is a possibility of home quarantine. If we have to do that, we need to know the name and addresses of those who are on the way.”
He also disagreed with Goyal’s comments about lack of sincerity on the part of the Kerala government towards bringing back migrants, adding that he expects the railway minister to understand the challenge faced by the state.
Vijayan also announced a change in the government’s policy with regard to institutional quarantine, and said everyone who undergoes government-provided quarantine will have to reimburse the cost of the same from now on.
“They will have to consider this a part of their quarantine expenses,” he said.
This will automatically apply to all travelers coming from outside India via the Vande Bharat mission, and those who end up in the state without pre-registration and/or passes.
He said the government is providing different types of quarantine facilities, including low-cost ones that “will cause no problems” for those with less income.
LOCKDOWN NOT A FAILURE
Vijayan also disagreed with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s assessment that the Coronavirus lock down was a failure.
Kerala had seen the total number of active cases fall to just 16 after the 41 day lockdown was imposed and has since risen to 415 after it was partially lifted.
“The center should have taken measures to mitigate the economic fallout of the lock-down. That is the only criticism that we can have,” Vijayan said.
“Other than that, it cannot be said that it was not the right decision or that it was not useful or that it caused viral transmission or anything of the sort. The lock-down really helped in bringing down transmission.”
VERGE OF COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION
Pinarayi Vijayan also said that Kerala was “standing on the verge of community transmission” of Coronavirus.
“Keeping in mind the gravity of the situation, we can say that we are at the verge of community transmission,” he said, when asked if there are instances of community transmission of the virus in the state.
Nevertheless, he said, the state has not entered that stage yet.
“However, we do have some doubts. Hence we are augmenting the tests from tomorrow,” he said, adding that the number of tests will rise to around 3,000 per day from less than 2,000 at present.
Kerala has seen the number of active cases rise from 16 to 415 in a matter of two weeks after inter-state movement of people was allowed earlier this month.
A total of 1.02 lakh people from different states in India have come back to the state so far and are in home quarantine.
Another 2.5 lakh have registered to come from states such as Maharashtra and Gujarat, fleeing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Entry passes have been issued to a total of 2.16 lakh people from other states so far, Vijayan added.
Another 1.31 lakh people from outside the country are also scheduled to come to Kerala, out of which 11,150 have reached, the chief minister said.
Out of the 415 active cases in Kerala at present, 135 arrived with the disease via Vande Bharat flights, while around 200 came by road or train from other states of India.
The remaining caught the virus in Kerala, mostly from the above set.
72 cases of COVID-19 in Kerala has been traced to Maharashtra, while 71 have been traced to Tamil Nadu and 35 to Karnataka, he added.