MUSCAT: Just as a few hours is left for the new regulation mandating all arriving passengers at the Kerala ports to carry a COVID-19 Negative certificate from June 20, several hundreds of people stranded in the Sultanate of Oman are being transported to the four international airports of Kerala today (Friday).
Although there are official repatriation flights being flown from Muscat and Salalah to various destinations in India, NGOs and overseas factions of mainstream political parties are operating charter flights after finding out that these flights are not suffice to carry countless Indians stuck over here.
Kerala has asked its people arriving from the GCC countries to keep a certificate from an authorised medical center in the Sultanate saying this person is free from COVID-19.
A COVID-19 test would cost anything between RO 55 to RO 75 depending upon the rates being charged by the hospital.
This decision has shaken a hornet’s nest with majority Indians who want to be repatriated is labourers or those who lost their jobs, people needing urgent medical attention or pregnant.
“Spending more than 60 Omani rials for a test is really a burden for me who is going home after the company where I was working lost some contracts and we have been inside the labour camp for nearly 3 months with no salary”, a construction worker told the Observer.
However, those who travel as part of the Vande Bharat repatriation programme wouldn’t need to have such a certificate, according to the Indian Embassy.
“We have not received any information mandating COVID-19 Negative certificates for passengers bound to Kerala”, Munu Mahawer, Indian Ambassador to the Sultanate said.
There have been talks going on at various levels to scrap the decision or to modify the same with some favorable amendment like Nat True Test or getting the test done upon arrival or so.
“We have already aided nearly 2,500 Indians get home back on 11 flights by the Central Committee plus 2 charter flights by Ruwi KMCC”, Rayees Ahmed, president of the organisation which operated the largest number of repatriation flights.
The Indian Cultural Foundation (ICF) which operated nearly half a dozen flights is operating three flights on Friday carrying nearly 600 people who require urgent medical care, and pregnants who were selected from the priority list with the Indian Embassy, according to Mohammed Raziq, General Secretary, Indian Cultural Federation.
Indian Social Club, Vatakara Sauhridaya Vedi, Overseas Indian Congress Committee, MPCC, and similar associations too are operating charter flights today.