Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan on Thursday rejected the Kerala government’s demand that citizens returning from Gulf countries first take a coronavirus test, Mathrubhumi reported. The state government on Wednesday released different safety guidelines for travel from six countries – United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain.

At a press briefing on Wednesday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the tests should not be older than 72 hours from the time of boarding. People travelling to Kerala from UAE must carry a certificate showing that they are not infected. Expatriates from Oman and Bahrain need to wear protective N-95 masks, face shields and gloves. Citizens arriving from Qatar, on the other hand, must be marked green on the country’s mobile app for the coronavirus.

Expatriates travelling from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait without getting coronavirus tests will have to wear personal protective equipment. Travellers from the two countries will have to undergo mandatory screening upon arrival in Kerala.

However, Muraleedharan said that the Truenat kit used in India to test individuals for the coronavirus cannot be simply sent to other countries. “We can only act according to the guidelines issued by the ministries of external affairs and health,” Muraleedharan said. “The chief minister demands to implement Truenat test in Gulf countries. He could have inquired through World Kerala Assembly whether the Truenat test was approved in these countries. Truenat test kit cannot simply be sent to other countries.”

Muraleedharan wondered how people who show no symptoms of the coronavirus could be tested and given a negative certificate for the disease. He asked Vijayan to make public the number of tests conducted in Kerala, a number he alleged was very low. The minister said many people who travelled from Kerala to Tamil Nadu were infected, and that by the Kerala government’s logic, the Tamil Nadu dispensation should demand certificates from people entering the state.

Muraleedharan rejected the Kerala government’s claim that the disease could spread on flights. “Only 1,666 persons among the 1 lakh NRIs [Non Residential Indians] repatriated from abroad were infected with the disease so far,” he asserted. He said this is only 1.5% of the total number of passengers, and therefore flights cannot be an environment for super spread of the virus.

“The state government said that those who come to Kerala for marriages need not stay in quarantine,” the minister said. “Have they found out in any study that coronavirus would not affect wedding parties? We informed the state that no special system can be arranged for Kerala alone.”

Kerala has reported 3,603 coronavirus cases and 22 deaths so far, according to data from the Union health ministry. On Wednesday, Kerala reported its biggest single-day increase of 152 cases.

But Kerala has received global recognition for its efforts to contain the coronavirus. State Health Minister KK Shailaja was on Tuesday invited to speak on the occasion of the United Nations Public Service Day on June 23.

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