Kerala Health Minister K. K. Shylaja on Friday indicated that battling COVID-19 outbreak was likely to be a long haul for the State.
She told the Assembly that tens of thousands of non-resident Keralites would arrive in the State for summer and infected persons could slip through the surveillance net at airports.
The House had adjourned its routine business to discuss the grave situation that prevailed in the State after the virus resurfaced in Pathanamthitta a fortnight ago. The Minister said no reconnaissance network was foolproof.
Ms Shylaja refuted the Opposition’s accusation that the government had caused COVID-19 to remerge in the State in March by ignoring the central government’s directive to mandatorily quarantine citizens arriving in the country from coronavirus hotspots, including Italy.
She said the family of three that returned from Italy and infected neighbours had concealed their port of departure to dodge the State’s disease surveillance mechanism.
They ignored airline advisories and blindsided the health authorities at the airport by stating they had commenced travel from elsewhere. The government could restrict the spread of COVID-19 from students who had returned from Wuhan in China. However, the family from Italy appeared to lack the same candour.
Deputy Leader of Opposition and Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) legislator M. K. Muneer, who piloted the adjournment motion, criticized the government for having attempted to stigmatize Keralites returning from COVID-19 ravaged Italy. He said the cyclical press conferences conducted by Ms Shylaja had caused needless worry in society.
The treasury benches referred to Ms Shylaja in glowing terms. Communist Party of India (Marxist) legislator Saji Cheriyan called her an “angel”. At the same time, K.U. Jenish Kumar of the CPM equated the Minister to a mother who protectively shielded her children.
The Opposition appeared unimpressed. Congress legislator Anil Akkara said the Minister had used the crisis to enhance her public image. Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said the Minister considered herself to be above all criticism. Ms Shylaja should not expect the Opposition to sing paeans of praise for her, he said. His job was to hold the government to account, and nobody could cow the Opposition down.