KOCHI: Kerala has received widespread appreciation for its efficient handling of Covid-19, which confined the number of deaths to four (including a Mahe native who died in Kannur) and led to a high recovery rate. However, Malayalis living abroad have not been as lucky as fellow Keralites here in terms of treatment. As of Tuesday, 93 non-resident Keralites (NRKs) succumbed to Covid-19 in foreign countries, with the most deaths reported from the UAE (40) and the US (33).
Due to high treatment costs and limited medical facilities in some regions, most expatriates are facing a danger in their host countries. There are also complaints that hospitals there are refusing to admit people even after they test positive for Covid-19. “Despite testing Covid-19 positive, we were told to stay at home and take basic medicines. Immediate medical attention is not guaranteed even if the situation aggravates. Things are more serious in high-risk regions,” said Najeeb V, 37, a construction worker in Abu Dhabi. He said many of the deaths could have been avoided had they been in Kerala.
State government officials said bodies of expatriate Malayalis who died of Covid-19 cannot be brought to Kerala. “As per WHO’s protocol, the mortal remains of Covid patients should be buried at the place of death and cannot be brought to their native countries. It is depressing, but we have to adhere to the regulations,” said NORKA-Roots CEO Harikrishnan Namboothiri K told TNIE.
On the unavailability of hospital assistance to patients, Harikrishnan said the authorities are taking such decisions due to various reasons, including the intensity of the infection and the availability of beds. “We are trying to extend help to the Keralites abroad through voluntary organisations,” he said.
Why govt can’t intervene
Experts said diplomatic issues prevent the Centre from intervening in the matter. “If we start raising questions on the host country’s containment methods or press for better treatment facilities, it will provoke them and only lead to diplomatic tensions. Our move to evacuate Indians during the Kuwait war had severely irritated their officials,” said T P Sreenivasan, former Ambassador of India.
Expats don’t want to leave
Despite the dangers, most expats are not willing to leave the host countries now, Sreenivasan said. “Many are of the view that the situation will soon return to normal. Most non-resident Keralites who have registered to return may also back out when their turn comes. We need to focus on desperate cases considering the severity of the issue,” he said.