Many from Kerala let into Karnataka without quarantine

Many passengers from Kerala let into Karnataka without quarantine

However, Dr K Sudhakar, Health Minister, told DH that quarantine applies to everyone, including all short-term visitors

A BBMP staffer collects swabs at the KSR railway station in Bengaluru on Wednesday. Credit: DH Photo/B K Janardhan

With an average of 10 flights and about six train loads of passengers entering Bengaluru from Kerala every day, municipal authorities are struggling to screen passengers. But a hastily introduced policy on quarantine means thousands of travellers are being improperly screened or not at all.

According to an order issued on August 30, the government announced a seven-day quarantine for students and residents of Karnataka who had returned from Kerala, which is experiencing a renewed Covid-19 surge. Six out of 10 new cases in India currently are in Kerala.

Returnees and visitors are also required to have a mandatory RT-PCR negative certificate dated not earlier than 72 hours. 

However, as of Wednesday, scores of travellers from Kerala continued to arrive by road, rail and air only to find little or no quarantining. Sources at Kempegowda International Airport said no instructions or preparations had been laid out at the airport to screen travellers for quarantining. Travellers are only required to have a negative RT-PCR certificate, the airport said.

Also read: 'Kerala needs strict containment steps, strategic lockdown to curb Covid-19 cases'

Rail passengers without a negative RT-PCR certificate are being tested in the mornings and the evenings. However, there is no afternoon testing. Even among those being screened, none faced quarantine, sources said.

On the Bangalore Malayalees Facebook group, for example, posts noted that those arriving by train had been freely allowed to go home without quarantine. “All had negative RT-PCR certificates and there was no institutional quarantine for anyone,” reported one member of the group.

Tushar Girinath, Principal Secretary, (Revenue Department), who had signed the August 30 order clarified that it specified that long-term students returning to the state from Kerala and returnees living in Karnataka faced institutional quarantine. “In the case of students, they have to be quarantined by their college and in the case of employees, their companies have to certify that they are going into quarantine. Short-term visitors who are coming for only a few days are exempt,” he told DH.

A subsequent order issued by Jawaid Akhtar, Principal Secretary (Health) on Wednesday, clarified that only constitutional functionaries, healthcare professionals and their spouses, children below the age of two, people with a dire emergency, short-term travellers and students arriving for short-stints such as taking exams are exempt, as are passengers in transit to and from Kerala.

However, Dr K Sudhakar, Health Minister, told DH that quarantine applies to everyone, including all short-term visitors. “A circular to this effect will be drafted,” he said.

“All travellers from Kerala are to go into designated hotels or Covid care centres for seven days. The list of designated quarantine centres will be made public in a day or two,” he added.

For R Muraleedhar of the Karnataka-Kerala Travellers’ Forum (KKTF), the erratic quarantining measure is emblematic of a policy that is already difficult to enforce. “The quarantine, if it does happen, will impose hardships on Kerala residents living in Karnataka. At the same time, I am getting reports that people are bypassing the problem by arriving in Karnataka through Tamil Nadu,” he said.

This was confirmed by an IT engineer who travelled to the city on Tuesday from Kerala. “At the Attibele checkpost, nobody stopped our car even though it has Kerala licence plates,” he said.