PALAKKAD/KOCHI: Kerala has been worried more about COVID-positive persons arriving from abroad so far, but now it has a fresh headache: sudden increase of infected people from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka crossing borders and entering the state. On Thursday, all four newly infected persons in Idukki were those who had come from neighbouring states — three from Tamil Nadu and one from Karnataka.
On Tuesday too, the state reported three COVID-19 cases from Tamil Nadu — one each in Palakkad, Malappuram and Kollam. All three travelled to Tamil Nadu and returned to Kerala.
The state’s worry is accentuated by the fact that it has to allow hundreds of lorries carrying vegetables and other essential food items on a daily basis from Tamil Nadu. The state almost entirely depends on Tamil Nadu for most of its vegetables and fruits. Sensing the trouble, DGP Loknath Behera on Thursday wrote to the chief secretaries and his counterparts in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to issue appropriate directions to the owners of goods vehicles in the two states to give a self-declaration/certificate stating the names of the drivers and helpers.
Rijo John, health economist and senior fellow at Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR), a Kochi-based think tank, said unlike Kerala, most other states have not been transparent in their reporting of COVID cases, which is a concern. “If you look at the number of deaths versus the cases reported in other states, it’s very obvious. In Kerala, compared to the number of COVID cases, the deaths are just two,” he pointed out. Tamil Nadu has reported 18 deaths so far, though the first COVID cases in the country were reported in Kerala back in January. “If we do not go for a stricter enforcement at the borders, Kerala will see sudden explosion of COVID cases in coming days,” John reckoned.
Behera writes to counterparts
This could be the reason for Behera’s letter, in which he said goods lorries from the neighbouring states were coming with one driver and the lorry is used to carry passengers in the guise of the second driver and helper. “Some people from your state are being dropped in our state and vice-versa. In this situation, the checking becomes very difficult,” he wrote.
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs guidelines allow a goods carrier to have two drivers and one helper. The copies of the communication have been sent to the district collectors of all border districts. Palakkad Collector D Balamurali said the administration has been very strict to prevent any illegal crossings. The administration, he said, in close coordination with the police and GST surveillance squads, has also started border area surveillance to tighten the loose ends, if any.
All four cases in Idukki came from neighbouring states; DGP writes to chief secys, counterparts on illegal ferrying of people in goods carriers