A seemingly unrelenting rise in COVID-19 infections linked to the influx of arrivals has prompted the State government to declare unoccupied ‘resident facilities and dwelling units identified by the district administration’ as institutional quarantine centres.
The order, based on a recommendation of the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA) on May 27, is aimed at averting the likely new wave of infections from overwhelming public and private sector health-care facilities. Officials clarify that the order does not occasion that Non-Resident Keralites (NoRKs) arriving from within the country and abroad by land, rail, air or sea could avoid institutional quarantine for the obligatory seven-day period.
The order offers no scope for returnees to head home or to a destination of their choice immediately on arrival as interpreted by some sections of the media. The returnees would have to undergo institutional quarantine compulsorily in one of the centres designated by the government for seven days.
They have the freedom to choose a facility close to home in their district.
Only persons arriving in the State for short visits could escape institutional quarantine.
However, the government would process such travellers separately at border check-posts.
The visitors would have to produce their return ticket, reveal their travel plans in the State and give their date of return.
District administrations and local self-government institutions have surveyed vacant ‘residential facilities and dwelling’ units that they could commandeer and turn into secured institutional quarantine centres if the inflow of returnees continued unabated.
A bulk of the premises converted to quarantine centres are government rest houses, college hostels, hotels, unoccupied homes and institutions offered free of charge by charitable organisations and religious foundations.
The government expected lakhs more to return home as air and land travel picked up momentum. Officials say the government found it particularly worrying that a bulk of the recent arrivals were from epidemic zones in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu and containment areas in the United Arab Emirates. Returnees, except indigent persons, would have to pay for their boarding and lodging at institutional quarantine centres.
The government has deployed a triad of police motorcycle patrols, members of the neighbourhood watch and mobile phone tracking technology to detect institutional and home quarantine violators.
A voluntary force of non-disabled citizens with a clean legal record trained in disaster management assisted the police in imposing the quarantine.
Officials say institutional quarantine is legally enforceable.