Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala’s acclaimed defence against coronavirus had its first instance of alleged ‘political quarantine’ when three MPs and two MLAs belonging to the Congress party were ordered quarantine themselves due to the risk of contracting the disease from a person detected with Covid-19 symptoms at a border check post.
The legislators expressed doubts over the intention of the authorities in sending them to quarantine as the government has been upset with the opposition criticism over the way the influx of stranded people was being handled.
The controversy erupted even as the state recorded 26 new cases, the highest number for a day since March. 14 cases have come from outside the state, while the remaining contracted the virus through contacts.
The quarantined legislators include parliament members Ramya Haridas, T N Prathapan, V K Sreekantan and MLAs Shafi Parambil and Anil Akkara. They had gone to the Walayar check post on the border with Tamil Nadu in the wake of heavy rush of people seeking to enter the state, leading to a lot of chaos. They had distributed food and other relief materials to the affected people.
Two prominent BJP leaders, who had been to the check post, along with 50 media persons and a number of police personnel are also quarantined.
Passengers coming from various states by road were stranded there for hours as the security personnel manning the check post stopped them as they did not possess the required passes. The state government had taken the firm stand that only those who had been issued passes after due registration would be allowed as unrestricted entry would jeopardise the state’s defence against Covid-19.
But the opposition UDF has been accusing the government of complete failure in handling the flow of Keralites stranded at various places. As such, the visit of the legislators had political overtones.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala has charged that the quarantine order against the party legislators was politically motivated, although he announced that there was no question of the order being flouted as it is part of the government’s plan to contain the spread of the virus.
At the checkpost, a man coming from Chennai had fainted and had been helped by two police personnel. The man was finally taken to the hospital, where he tested positive for Covid two days later.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan blamed the legislators for breaking the Covid protocol while interacting with the stranded people. He disclosed that the action was recommended by the district medical board, which had identified 8 high-risk contact and another 120 low-risk primary contacts, who included the politicians, media persons and police personnel.
He said that it was unfortunate that some people are playing politics with the state government’s drive against the disease, but insisted that the action had nothing to do with their political affiliation. Healthcare officials, police personnel and others engaged in Covid defence routinely go on quarantine, he added.
The chief minister said that the sudden increase in the number of positive cases was a sign of the grave danger being faced by the state in view of the large influx of stranded people. He cautioned people that there was no option but to live with Covid, which according to the World Health Organisation, is not going away very soon.