Kerala’s acclaimed defence against coronavirus had its first instance of alleged ‘political quarantine’ when 3 MPs and 2 MLAs belonging to the Congress were ordered to go in home quarantine due to the risk of contracting the disease from a person detected with Covid-19 symptoms at a border checkpost.
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. Of them, 14 have come from outside the state, while the rest contracted the virus through contacts.
The quarantined legislators include parliamentarians Ramya Haridas, TN Prathapan, VK 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.
Also quarantined are two prominent BJP leaders, who had been to the check post, along with 50 media persons and a number of cops.
Passengers coming from various states by road were stranded there for hours as the security men manning the check post stopped them as they did not possess the required passes. The state government had taken the firm stand only those with passes 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 the quarantine order against the party legislators was politically motivated, although he announced 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 cops. He was taken to the hospital, where he tested positive for Covid two days later.
CM Pinarayi Vijayan blamed the MLAs for breaking the protocol while interacting with the stranded people.