27/04/2020 3:12 PM IST | Updated 28/04/2020 9:19 AM IST

Coronavirus: How Kerala Govt Is Preparing For The Return Of NRIs After Lockdown

Last week, the government issued an order saying expats who wish to come back to the state will need certificates showing they tested negative for COVID-19.

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Travellers submit declarations at Trivandrum International Airport in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), Kerala, on 3 February 2020. 

The Kerala government is expecting a huge influx of non-resident Keralites (NRKs) and Malayalis living in other states back into the state once the national lockdown is lifted on May 3.

On Sunday, the Kerala government on Sunday began the registration process for bringing back people stranded in various countries once the Centre gives the nod and air services resume.

Last week, the government had issued an order saying expats who wish to come back to the state will need certificates showing they tested negative for COVID-19. They can then register with the Kerala government’s NORKA (Non-Resident Keralites Affairs) department.

Reports say over a lakh Malayalis have registered on the site so far. The state government has said it is expecting around 3-5.5 lakh people to come back within the first 30 days.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on arranging special flights to bring back stranded Indians, especially from the Gulf Cooperation Council nations.

Preparations for NRIs

In anticipation for their return, Pinarayi has said airports will need testing facilities as well as quarantine facilities near it.

Pinarayi said arrangements being made included Covid-19 hospitals in all districts and 2,50,000 additional beds.

Home Secretary Dr Vishwas Mehta told PTI last week that about 1.4 lakh beds have been identified in government and private healthcare facilitates in the state.

The Public Works Department (PWD) has also begun the process of physical examination of the facilities identified to be used as COVID care centres, he said.

“Around 27,000 institutions, including hotels, resorts, hostels, schools, lodges, stadiums and even auditoriums have been identified where we can accommodate around 10 lakh people, including NRKs. Space has been found. Stadiums and auditoriums will be used as a last resort,” he said

The Kerala government order specifically said that the NORKA registration process is for the state to arrange quarantine facilities in the state, if necessary, and not for priority regarding flight bookings.

After people register themselves, the government will draw up a list on how to bring them back as per priority.

Among the large number of people waiting to return are those with expired visiting visas, the aged, pregnant women, children, critically ill patients, students who have completed their courses and others.

On Monday, Pinarayi said priority would be given to those who have gone for medical treatment in other states and residents of other states who have registered for specialist treatment in Kerala.

Students, people who have lost jobs and those wanting to come to Kerala post their retirement would get preference, he said.

What happens on their return?

Every person who returns will be tested for symptoms at the airport.

Those who show symptoms will be taken to the hospital for further tests.

Others will stay home in quarantine for two weeks, even if they show no symptoms. They also cannot visit anyone and must got straight home from the airport. Relatives and friends are asked not to visit them.

Those who cannot go home will be made to stay at government’s quarantine facilities, Manorama reported.

For people arriving from other states

“For such people coming into the state in buses and trains only thermal screening can be done to a certain extent. We will have to draw up a strategy for them,” the Home Secretary had said.

There were also several people from Kerala who have gone to neighbouring states for farm work, especially in Kodagu, Karnataka. All those who are stranded in other states will be brought back in a phased manner, Pinarayi said on Monday.

All safety precautions taken for expatriates would apply in their case also. Entry will be regulated and we expect the people to cooperate with us,“the chief minister said.

(With PTI inputs)