Expatriates from the Gulf flying to Kerala must undergo COVID-19 tests and carry certificates stating they tested negative, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Wednesday.
In case countries lack facilities to conduct the tests, the Central government should arrange them through embassies because it was not possible to bring the infected patients along with other passengers, he said.
"We have never been against those coming to the state. All we have asked is to test the expats. We are ready to welcome all the COVID-19 positive patients if they come on a special flight exclusively for them," he said.
For, if the infected were allowed to travel with other passengers, it would result in the spread of the virus, he said.
"We have to think of the other passengers. There are pregnant women, children and elders travelling on flights and there was possibility of them contracting the pathogen," Vijayan said.
Slamming the Kerala government, Union Minister V Muraleedharan had said it was impractical to conduct COVID-19 tests for all the returning expats through the embassies.
The state government had earlier decided to make the COVID-19 negative certificate mandatory for all those returning to the state.
"This decision will affect those who want to return to the state from abroad," Muraledharan had alleged, saying the Kerala was running away from its responsibilities.
Spicejet, which is bringing non-resident Keralites by 300 chartered flights, has informed the government that they would conduct the virus tests on the passengers before bringing them, Vijayan said.
The central government has to make arrangements through embassies for the tests if the airlines don't,he said.
Describing the decision as cruel, senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said the test results cannot be obtained in 48 hours, it takes four-seven days. Besides, it would also impose a financial burden on the jobless returnees, he said.
Protesting against the alleged apathy of the state and central governments towards expats, Chennithala said he would observe a fast in front of the Secretariat on June 19.