Thiruvananthapuram : Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday sparked off a row as he announced that with the number of Covid-19 cases witnessing an upswing with arrival of Keralaites from abroad, they will now have to pay for the quarantine.
"The rates will be affordable to all," Vijayan said this new paid quarantine would begin from Wednesday.
According to the quarantine rules, all those who return from abroad have to go for institutional quarantine for a week and then remain at their home for another week.
Expressing his strong resentment was senior Lok Sabha member and RSP leader N.K. Premachandran, who said that no one must forget what the state government had told the Kerala High Court that adequate rooms are ready to keep the returning diaspora in quarantine, once they come back.
"The government said they have identified 2.35 lakhs beds of which 1.53 lakhs beds are already ready to accommodate the returnees. They also pointed out that 9,000 rooms are ready for those willing to pay at private hotels. So today Vijayan has done a somersault on this, as just 11,000 people have arrived and things have gone haywire and are asking the diaspora to pay," said Premachandran.
But putting a brave face was the lone CPI-M Lok Sabha member from the state, A.M. Ariff who said that he was always worried on how a small state like Kerala with limited resources can provide free quarantine accomodation.
"Kerala is a fund-starved state and all know that the finances are also poor. I on several occasions was wondering if it would be possible to provide free quarantine for all the diaspora who returns," said Ariff.
T.K. Ashiq, speaking to a TV channel from UAE, said this was an astonishing remark from the Chief Minister's side.
"No one will ever forget what he (Vijayan) said at a reception given to him when he came for a visit some time back. He was so emphatic and said the state government will pay six months' salary if a member of the Kerala diaspora loses his job and returns home. And see what has been said, every diaspora member has to pay for the quarantine," he said.
Vijayan also said that of the present 415 cases, 231 have been registered in the past four days, including 67 on Tuesday, the highest recorded in a day. "Of these, 133 have come from abroad and 178 from other states," he said.
"We are reaching a new phase of Covid-19. We had a video conference with all the state lawmakers (MPs and MLAs). Irrespective of the party affiliations, each one agreed to work jointly against Covid-19," he added.
The Chief Minister said a large number of people had registered to return from abroad and within the country. "We will receive all our people who wish to return... Once they are here, they will have to undergo quarantine," said Vijayan.
Vijayan said over one lakh people, who had registered from other states, had returned. Also, 11,189 of the 1.35 lakh registered from abroad had returned, he added.
During the day, nine more hotspots were added taking the total to 68 in the state.