Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan

Kochi: Kerala is now addressing the issue of an increasing social stigma against expatriate Keralites who are widely perceived to have brought coronavirus to the state from affected countries that they have made their temporary homes.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan hit the nail at this daily press briefing when he declared the NRIs were the backbone of the state’s economy and it would be most uncharitable to blame them for the outbreak of the disease, even as the state reported the highest number of coronavirus for a single day, taking the number to 32.

Of these, 17 are for people who have just come back from various countries, while 15 contracted the disease through contact with the affected people.

Most of the new cases are in the northern districts of Kasargod and Kannur, which is causing increasing concern due to the risk of the outbreak taking the form of community infection. The CM said the expatriates cannot be blamed for coming back home, when their country of residence is struggling with the virus attack.

They are subjecting themselves to the protocol announced by the health authorities and the contrary was true in isolated cases. Pinarayi said there are forces working to bring disrepute to the state, in an oblique reference to the approach of neighbouring states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, where people are said to be resisting the people’s entry from Kerala.

On Saturday, the ambulance carrying a woman patient headed to a hospital in Mangalore town of Karnataka was turned back by security forces at a border check post, leading to her death. The incident hurt the collective conscience of the state and has been agitating people’s mind.

The CM took up the issue with PM Modi, who asked Sadananda Gowda, the Union minister from Karnataka, to sort out the issue with CM Yediyurappa. The minister assured the state government of a solution, but the border continues to remain closed for traffic from this side of the border.

In fact, the issue reached the Kerala HC, which observed no life must be lost in the name of countering an epidemic. The court also instructed that national highways shouldn’t be closed for essential services and emergency needs.

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