[Kerala] Negative COVID-19 Test Requirement For Chartered Flight Passengers Impractical

22 JUN 2020

A row has broken out over the state government’s revised norm, that only passengers who have tested negative for Covid-19 may be brought on chartered flights from the Middle East to the state, The New Indian Express reports.

Kerala’s altered position on expatriates was revealed after a letter was issued by Norka Secretary K Ellangovan to an applicant who had initially been given a consent letter to bring back stranded Keralites using a chartered flight. The Norka secretary said that from June 20 the need for a negative COVID-19 test certificate for passengers in private chartered flights from the Middle East comes into effect.

“A test certificate to that effect (negative) should be carried by the passenger. This condition applies to all flights for which consent letters were issued earlier,” Secretary Ellangovan said in the letter. 

On the advice of the Health Department, another norm was later introduced stating that the COVID-19 test result should have been obtained no more than 48 hours before the time of departure, he said. According to the official, Kerala has insisted on the new norm in reaction to the increased chance of cross-infection during the flight. He said the overall infection rate among expats from Middle East countries has risen to three per cent. The rate increases again - to as high as six per cent - upon arrival in Kerala.

Union Minister V Muraleedharan reportedly said the new norm was ‘impractical’. He said no other state has insisted on such a condition, adding that it amounts to cruelty towards expatriates. Minister Muraleedharan said that among Gulf countries, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Qatar do not test asymptomatic people. Even if an expatriate wants to get tested in these countries, he said, it will be impossible. 

Minister Muraleedharan said the airfare will be forfeited if a person books a ticket on a chartered flight but is unable to get a test result 48 hours prior to its departure. He asked how a state like Kerala, which made such elaborate arrangements for expatriates had taken such a decision.

Secretary Ellangovan said the state has been in touch with Embassy officials from six Gulf countries to see whether there are difficulties in getting the tests done and explore the cost involved and the testing protocol followed. “Only after getting their feedback, will we make any modification to the norms, if required,” the secretary told TNIE.

Source: The New Indian Express