Thousands of Kerala expats have expressed their desire to return to the state when flights resume and airports reopen, officials said on Monday.

Over 200,000 have so far registered on the website after it was launched seeking to return home.

Most of them are from the Gulf countries.

The registration has to be done on, of the state-run Norka-Roots, the official department of the government in charge of non-resident Keralites.

The new facility was opened by the Kerala government, after the central government, following numerous requests from several organisations, decided to take a positive step.

The central government last week asked the states about the arrangements and the manner in which the returning migrants would be taken care of.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said all arrangements are in place at the four airports in the state.

Those arriving will be screened, he said.

While those with no Covid-19 symptoms will be allowed to go home for self-isolation, others will be quarantined under the present medical guidelines.

According to the state government, various hostels, hotels, halls, private hospitals with accommodation facilities as well as floating houseboats at Alappuzha are ready to house them.

While many of these coronavirus care centres would be operated for free, those wishing better facilities and comfort would have to pay, he said.

Meanwhile, the Congress party asked the Kerala and central governments to come out with measures like subsidised return air tickets, and temporary and long-term financial support to help the returning migrants.

Former state Congress president M M Hassan asked the central government to ensure that every expat who has lost his job be immediately paid an equivalent of Rs25,000 from the Indian Community Welfare Fund in the custody of every Indian embassy.

"Each time an Indian renews his or her passport there, a sum of $11 is charged. The money goes into the Embassy Fund and this can now be used for the returning migrants.

Hassan also requested the state and the central governments to formulate short- and long-term rehabilitation programmes.

Of an estimated 2.5mn non-resident Keralites, 90% are in the Gulf countries. According to sources, 300,000 to 500,000 are likely to return after flights resume.

In other developments, the chief minister on Monday said the state has sought a comprehensive financial package from the central government to tide over the damages that Covid-19 has inflicted on the state.

Addressing the media after the daily Covid-19 review meeting, Vijayan said the expected loss in the first quarter of the present fiscal year for the state would be around Rs80,000 crore.

"This include over 83 lakh man days lost in the casual labour sector, besides the hotel and restaurant sector, fisheries, IT sector, other organised and unorganised sectors," he said.

"We have demanded a comprehensive financial package, which includes an interest-free loan ranging from Rs2 to Rs5 lakh for the small and medium segment business," he added.

Vijayan said that among the other things that have been raised with the federal government include paying for the air tickets of those who are financially weak after losing their jobs in the Gulf and are presently waiting to return home.

"The state government, if required, will help the returning migrants' children get admission in schools. The Centre should come out with a special package which will help for the rehabilitation of the returnees who will come from the Gulf.

Vijayan also said 13 more people have tested positive for the coronavirus in the state, taking the total number of people under treatment to 123.

Kerala has so far reported 481 Covid-19 cases.

"A total of 19,812 people are under observation at home while 489 others have been kept under observation at different hospitals across the state," said Vijayan.

"Four districts - Kannur, Kozhikode, Kasargode and Malappuram - are under red zone. After the rise in the number of cases, Kottayam and Idukki have been added to the red zone. Ten other districts are under orange zone," he said.

He said that on Sunday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had called him and he was told that Kerala would like to see the lockdown getting lifted in a partial manner till May 15, while inter-district and inter-state movement can be allowed there in a restricted manner.

"What to do after May 15 can be decided at that time," said Vijayan.

Related Story