Talking to Centre on pre-flight mandatory COVID-19 tests: CM

Thiruvananthapuram, June 23 (): Kerala is hopeful of implementing the mandatory pre-flight COVID-19 testing for expatriates at the earliest and talks are on with the Centre in this regard,Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said. The state government had extended the implementation of the virus tests for those coming to Kerala from abroad till June 24. "All possible measures should be taken to prevent the spread of the virus and as part of this, we raised the need to test the people who come from foreign countries," Vijayan told reporters here. The state had written letters addressing this demand to the Prime Minister and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). Accordingly, the MEA has been discussing this with missions in various countries regarding the testing of passengers in the Gulf countries. The Foreign Ministry has informed the state Chief Secretary about the progress of discussions, he said. The Rapid Antibody Test is being conducted by the UAE. Qatar has a special mobile app that allows only people with green status on this app to travel. Kuwait currently has testing facility only at two terminals but it can be expanded to more terminals as per the requirement of the airlines. It would cost around Rs 1,000 per test. Oman has RT-PCR tests only. The Embassy has approached private hospitals but it would be difficult to implement the testing by June 25. In Saudi Arabia too, Rapid Antibody testing is being conducted in some private hospitals but it has not been approved by the government. The Foreign Ministry said there were difficulties in Bahrain. We cannot compromise on the safety of those coming back to Kerala from abroad. The government is committed to repatriating all those who wish to return but we should avoid the spread of the virus during the flight. In this context, we are discussing with the central government to find out what best can be done in the interests of migrants," he said. "We expect a decision will be taken soon," he said. As more flights arrive, more personnel would be assigned for checking the passengers at airports. Senior IAS-IPS officers would be tasked with coordinating arrangements at airports. The state had demanded to bring separately those who have tested positive in order to avoid the spread of the deadly virus. He said that there were difficulties in conducting tests in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia but the Kerala government was committed to bring all those who wish to return to the state. "As of now, we have said that all those who return to the state in chartered flights and private flights should undergo testing before boarding them in order to avoid spreading of virus to co-passengers. We are holding discussions with the Centre to avoid trouble for the expats..." Vijayan said replying to a question. RRT UD NVG NVG

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