The Kerala government has made it mandatory for all migrant workers entering the state to undergo rapid antigen assay-based tests for the coronavirus, followed by 14 days of room quarantine. Arrangements for the same have to be made by the labour contractors. However, in case of individual migrant workers, they will have to bear the cost of testing on their own.
In an advisory issued on Saturday, the state government said that all workers would have to undergo the test on the day of their arrival at primary health centres. If tested positive, they should be admitted to one of the Covid designated facilities in the state on the basis of the severity of infection.
“If the workers test negative, they will quarantine themselves for 14 days,” the guidelines stated. “Symptomatic workers, who are negative in antigen assay, should be subjected to the RT-PCR [Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction] test. The contractor/agent/entrepreneur or the individual guest worker – if independent – shall bear the cost of testing.”
The guidelines added that labour contractors who make arrangements for quarantine facilities for the returning workers will closely monitor the health of the guest workers. In case of symptoms, they will inform a local health institution on phone. “Adequate accommodation are to be provided so that there is no overcrowding,” the government said. “Masks should be worn and social distancing should be maintained. Personal and environmental hygiene should be observed.”
After 14 days in quarantine, the workers would be under observation for another two weeks, a period during which they can work, the guidelines said.
The new guidelines come amid protests from residents in Kerala against putting up migrants in camps as they fear these camps will spread the coronavirus, according to The Indian Express.
An unidentified official from the state labour department told the newspaper that they are worried about the quarantine of workers. “Many major contractors are planning to bring workers back on special buses,” the official said. “Some have already done that and have provided quarantine facilities. But a large chunk of migrants used to work in the unorganised sector under small contractors and lived in camps. It has to be seen how social distancing and quarantine would be possible for them.”
Kerala has reported 12,480 cases of the coronavirus, including 42 deaths, as of Monday, according to the state health department.
Last week, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had admitted that community transmission of the coronavirus has begun in the state. Vijayan said the capital Thiruvananthapuram was facing a “grave” situation, as the virus was spreading in coastal areas. “Community transmission has been confirmed in the Poonthura and Pulluvila areas [of Thiruvananthapuram district],” he had said.
India on Monday reported 40,425 new cases of the coronavirus, taking the total to 11,18,043. The toll rose by 681 to 27,497. This is the highest single-day rise in the number of fresh infections as well as deaths.