Amid rising Coronavirus cases in India, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to immediately withdraw the circular that mandates a person travelling from Italy to India to obtain a certificate of having tested negative for COVID-19. This statement from the Chief Minister comes after eight new cases have been tested positive in Kerala. Vijayan said that many Indians are stranded in the Airports in Italy as they are not able to board flights to cities in India without this certificate.
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had on March 5 issued a travel advisory asking those arriving in the country from coronavirus-affected Italy, South Korea to obtain a certificate showing them having tested negative for the virus. The advisory came into force on March 10 and is a temporary measure till cases of COVID-19 subside. In his letter to the Prime Minister, Vijayan stated that foreign authorities are not ready to test people without symptoms as they are already overloaded with patients.
"We are receiving information that many Indians are stranded in airports in Italy as they are not able to board flights to cities in India without this certificate. The certificates have been made mandatory irrespective of whether these travellers have symptoms or not. It has been brought to notice that foreign authorities are not ready to test people without symptoms as they are already overloaded with patients," read his letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Coronavirus, which started in Wuhan city of China has now spread to more than 100 countries and has killed over 4,200 people worldwide. Countries like South Korea and Italy have recorded the maximum number of cases of the deadly virus besides China.
Furthermore, the letter suggested that Indians can be tested on arrival and kept in quarantine if necessary.
"Indians abroad wanting to return home are put to undue hardship by the circular mentioned above. While there is no difference of opinion that enough safeguards should be taken so that the disease does not spread, undue hardship to Indians abroad wanting to come home in an hour of crisis is totally unwarranted. They can be tested on arrival and kept in quarantine if necessary. There are necessary facilities in our country," read his letter.
The health ministry said the total number of confirmed cases has risen to 50, adding the rest are being retested for confirmation. If the fresh cases declared by the state governments are taken into account, the figure goes up to 61.
The Chief Minister has instructed classes and examinations for students till Class 7 in schools in the State to be cancelled and also shut till March 31 all vacation classes, tuition classes, 'anganwadis' and 'madrasas'. He added that the surveillance system will be strengthened across the State and said that the number of sample testing labs will also be increased.
"Exams for classes 8th, 9th, and 10th standard will, however, continue as per schedule. Legal steps will be initiated against those hiding their travel history. All people returning from COVID-19 countries should report to health authorities. Screening facilities at airports will be strengthened", said Vijayan.
"Strict action will be taken against those spreading rumours and fake news. For those flying in and out of the airports in Kerala, passenger manifest to be collected from airlines. Availability of Sanitisers and masks will be ensured," added.