In Tamil Nadu, if you fly back from abroad, you go to quarantine hotel. Period.
Chennai: Thirty passengers who flew in on an Air-India flight from the UK on Saturday morning were bused off to mandatory institutional quarantine, where they will remain for seven days at their own cost.
It didn't matter that they all produced COVID-19 negative test results.
In Tamil Nadu, if you come in from abroad, you can wave your negative test result all you like but off you go to quarantine.
That's the standard operating procedure (SOP) here although the central government exempts COVID-negatives from institutionalised quarantine and allows them home quarantine.
The 30 negatives from the UK were picked up from the airport by a government vehicle and driven to Hotel Fairfield by Marriott at OMR Chennai. Room rent: Rs 2500 per day.
"I don't know what is happening," said 63-year-old Rajam Nallamuthu, a retired LIC employee from Adambakkam who arrived back in Chennai after a visit to her son's house in London. She produced a COVID19 negative certificate issued by the London Medical Laboratory on August 12 but she was waved on to quarantine hotel.
There she had to pay Rs 5,000 as entry fee. "I am a diabetic patient. We were brought in early in the morning. They gave us two chapatis and vegetable curry as breakfast and lunch was served at 3 pm. If I want a coffee, I have to pay for it." she complained.
All the rooms in the hotel are filled with passengers like her, people coming home from abroad who thought their negative test report was a passport back home.
According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare's (MoHFW)'s new guidelines issued on August 3, people flying into India can seek exemption from institutional quarantine if they produce a corona-negative report of a test conducted not more than 96 hours before undertaking the journey.
Officials of Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) said they have the mandate to tweak the central government's guidelines. Meghanath Reddy, deputy commissioner (revenue) of GCC, who deals with quarantine-related matters, said the state government 's guidelines over rides the central government norms.
"It's the prerogative of the state government to tweak the central government's guidelines. We have adopted an eight-day mandatory quarantine. Those who produce a negative certificate will be released after the first test result," he said.
And who pays for the unwanted hotel room?...