A tightrope walk between NoRKs, containment strategy

CM hints at limiting the arrival of returnees from epidemic hotspots if positive cases swell

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday said the government was constrained to walk a tightrope between ensuring the welfare and safety of Non-Resident Keralites (NoRKs) returning from abroad and other States returnees and the State’s containment strategy.

“One could not be at the cost of the other. The government has to ensure both at a stroke,” he said.

Mr. Vijayan’s comment came against the backdrop of reports of an increase in the State’s COVID-19 caseload after Kerala opened its air, sea and land borders to NoRKs from within the country and abroad. The Chief Minister hinted that the government might be constrained to limit the intake of arrivals from epidemic hotspots if positive cases, chiefly among entries, swelled.

(A senior official clarified that the government had informally set 300 positive cases as the safety threshold. If the number of infections crossed the tentative lower limit, the State might be constrained to phase out the arrival of returnees further.)

The Chief Minister slammed the attempt by some ‘vested interests’ to portray NoRKs as spreaders of the infection. A family which returned to their home at Pathanamthitta from Thane, a high-risk locality in Maharashtra, had to contend with threats and abuse from neighbours. They had to spend several hours in their vehicle on the road, without being able to enter their home.

Ward-level neighbourhood watch committees at the village and municipal level should work in tandem with the police to ensure that such instances did not repeat. The scourge was not anybody’s fault. Gatekeepers could not determine whether an asymptomatic person was a covert transmitter of the infection or not accurately. Carriers, for no fault of theirs, might escape detection on land borders and at ports.

Neighbourhood watch committees should increase house-level visits to ensure that returnees were adequately isolated. Mr Vijayan said Kerala stood steadfast behind its vast diaspora.“Kerala cannot and will not forget their contributions. They could come home any time. It is like returning home to their mothers,” he said.

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 9:06:25 AM |

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