Random COVID-19 testing for international passengers in Kerala

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Picture used for illustrative purpose only.

Ashraf Padanna, Correspondent

Kerala has issued a new guideline for international passengers including expatriates arriving on vacation who have been protesting strict quarantine rules for a week.

The airport authorities have been instructed to conduct random testing of two per cent of travellers on the flight irrespective of the country of departure done free of cost.

While the officials of the airlines would select the passengers to be tested, the state will bear its cost.

It requested the international travellers to “maintain the consistency in the approaches related to vulnerability reduction and spread of COVID.”

The stipulation applies to all categories of the mobile population – local, domestic and international “especially in the scenario of omicron becoming dominant infection.”

The order said a group of experts suggested these amendments after examining the present pandemic situation and various guidelines issued.

“The guidelines are modified to facilitate safe travel and also emphasise precautions,” it said. 

It appealed to all international travellers to strictly follow the guidelines “for their own  safety and safety of family and society.”

International travellers irrespective of the duration of their stay in Kerala should undergo symptom surveillance.

If they are symptomatic, they need to take an RT-PCR test and get hospitalised or self-isolated as per the results.

The new guidelines advise home quarantine for international travellers and they must continue self-health monitoring for the next seven days.

If symptoms develop, they should get tested and follow strict Covid appropriate behaviour. They should avoid congregations, closed space gatherings and crowding.

The samples of all international travellers who are tested RT-PCR positive shall be sent for whole-genome sequencing.

The guideline advises them to take the virus test again using rapid antigen assay on the eighth day of arrival.

Though the test-positivity rate is steadily falling, the southern state, which reported India’s first case two years back, is still under the grip of the new coronavirus.

On Saturday, it logged 33,538 new cases from 102,778 samples tested with a positivity rate of 32.63 as against the weekly average of 39.86.

The active caseload, however, remains high in Kerala (352,399) followed by Tamil Nadu (155,329) Maharashtra (147,941) and Karnataka (123,131).

The state also reported 444 more fatalities, a vast majority of them previously undercounted, taking the death toll since the outbreak of the pandemic to 57,740.

The authorities have imposed restrictions at the district level on the basis of the number of patients admitted to hospitals and divided the districts into three groups, A, B and C.

Currently, only the Kollam district is in the C category requiring strict restrictions.

Trivandrum, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Kottayam, Idukki, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad, Wayanad and Kannur districts are in the B category.

Malappuram and Kozhikode districts fall under the A category while Kasaragod does not belong to any such categories.

In districts falling under the A category, up to 50 people can attend social, cultural, religious, political and public events, weddings and funerals.

No such gatherings will be allowed in the B and C category districts where religious worship should be online and a maximum of 20 people can attend weddings and funerals.

Movie theatres, swimming pools and gyms are not allowed to function in the C category districts.

The authorities have also decided to limit the attendance at the Attukal Pongala festival opening here later this month to 200 people in the temple compound. 

They asked all devotees to offer the ritualistic Pongala (rice cooked with jaggery, ghee and coconut) at their homes.

The number of devotees at all religious institutions has been limited to 20. The Covid protocols must be observed on Sunday as well.

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