Thiruvananthapuram: As the number of deaths from coronavirus among people from Kerala living in other countries continue to rise, the state government decided to open helpdesks and offer medical assistance to the community.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the number of deaths among the Malayali community living abroad compelled the government to start COVID-19 helpdesks through the Non Resident Keralites Affairs (NORKA).
"Our biggest concern is about the deaths of several Keralites in countries like the US. Daily, we hear news of our people dying there. We are getting calls from our brethren who have no idea on what to do next,” he said.
The helpdesks will be operational in five countries where there are large Malayali populations with the first one to be opened in the United Arab Emirates.
“We have directed the ambassadors in the respective countries to coordinate with these help desks," the chief minister told reporters after a review meeting on the situation on Wednesday.
The chief minister has also announced an online medical consultation facility for non-residential Keralites (NRKs).
"We will also be arranging doctors who can help the NRKs. They can address their health concerns after registering with the NORKA-ROOTS website and the facility will be available from 2pm to 6pm IST. They can talk to doctors through the helpline over audio or video calls with experts in general medicine, gynaecology, surgery, paediatrics, ENT, orthopaedics and ophthalmology," said Vijayan.
The government will also make registration with NORKA mandatory for all those who go abroad for studies. "At present, the NORKA registration cards are available to all those who reside outside the country for more than six months. Soon, this will be made available for all students to go abroad for studies. And it will be mandatory. They will receive concessions in airfares and insurance facilities," the CM said.
At least 24 people from the state have died from the virus with most of the cases being reported from the US. There is also a huge concern about NRKs living in the Gulf, especially Dubai.
Muslim League MP and former minister PK Kunhalikutty said most of the people in the Gulf are unskilled labourers.
"We are getting a lot of calls from the Gulf. Members of associations close to our party are in distress as they witness the difficulties faced by the workers due to the present situation. They are worried about a condition when the hospitals may start getting flooded if the situation worsens. The embassies should utilise the Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) for this purpose. I have also discussed this matter with Foreign Minister S Jayshankar,” Kunhalikutty told News18.
CPM MP and former minister Elamaram Kareem said there is a very big fear among NRIs in the Gulf countries, mainly those who living in labour camps, of getting infected.
“As they stay in a community housing concept with more than 10 people living in a single room, the chance of the infection spreading is also very high. The government should inform the embassies concerned and take necessary precautionary measures,” he said.
“Embassies should make sure that the governments of other nations are providing adequate attention to the people from India, especially those who live in labour camps,” Kareem told Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a teleconference on Wednesday.