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For some classes of expatriates returning to Kerala, the State insists on 7 days institutional quarantine. If the person tests negative for COVID-19 thereafter, s/he is allowed to home quarantine for the remaining 7 days
The Kerala High Court on Friday was told that the Central Government's policy of mandatory 14-day institutional protocol for expatriates returning to India amid the COVID is mandatory.
Appearing for the Centre, Advocate Suvin R Menon further asserted that the Kerala Government's divergent policy of allowing 7 days' home quarantine in the event of testing negative after the 7th day of institutional quarantine in some cases must be stopped immediately.
The submissions were made before a Bench of Justices Anu Sivaraman and MR Anitha on a plea moved by one, Sabu Stephen, for making 14-day institutional quarantine mandatory for all persons crossing into Kerala amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Kerala High Court was earlier informed by the State that in case of some returning expatriates, such as those from the UAE, a rapid antibody test is conducted before they are allowed to board the flight to India. These persons are only allowed to board the flight if they test negative for COVID-19.
In such cases, the State was allowing the NRIs to quarantine themselves at home if they test negative for the virus on the 7th day of institutional quarantine after their return.
The Central Government's protocol, however, insists on a 14-day institutional quarantine across the board. On Friday, the Centre's counsel submitted,
The Central Government's quarantine protocol for 14-day institutional protocol was mandatory and the Kerala Government should stop its divergent protocol immediately;
The Central Government's protocol must be publicised widely. Those NRIs unwilling to comply with the same may choose not to return;
The Kerala High Court may decide on whether to direct the return of those NRIs who were allowed to go home for quarantine after the 7th day on institutional quarantine.
The Kerala High Court today orally observed that it is not for the Court to decide whether to direct the return of those who have already been allowed to go for home quarantine. In response, the Centre's counsel remarked that the Central Government may then direct their return.
Menon also added that of the 18 persons who were found to be COVID-19 positive in Kerala recently, the State Government was yet to disclose how many were in institutional quarantine and how many were quarantined at home.
Further, concern was also raised over certain persons being allowed to go home if there was a death in the family. Such persons may have interacted with larger crowds, Menon said.
Menon also submitted that the Central Protocol is being insisted upon since the issue involves the entry of persons from other countries, where different strains of the coronavirus may be prevalent, unlike the case with persons crossing state borders.
Appearing party-in-person, Stephen remarked that for a few days Kerala reported no cases of COVID-19 and that the number of cases rose more recently. As such, he pushed for making the 14-day institutional quarantine protocol mandatory in Kerala.
The matter has now been posted to May 18, on a request by the AAG for time to brief the Government on the issue.
Appearing for the State today, AAG Ranjith Thampan told the Court that the Centre's statement in this case had not reached the State's Chief Secretary at the time. Therefore, he sought time to obtain instructions.