Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Non-Resident Keralites opt for ‘quarantine packages’ to visit home

For the past six months, Babychen Jose, an NRK based in Birmingham, UK, has been trying to visit his aged mother in Kottayam.

As COVID cases spiked, a maid who used to attend to her stopped coming home and his aged mother, all alone in the house, started showing symptoms of depression. Babychen, who had been in touch with his mother daily on the phone, became all the more desperate to return home.

But the earlier norm of two weeks of quarantine and long-haul expensive flights through the Gulf sector had made him postpone the visit. But, with Air India introducing Vande Bharat direct flights form London to Kochi and quarantine period being reduced to a week, many NRKs like Babychen have heaved a sigh of relief. 

Besides, the national carrier recently increased the frequency of direct flights and brought down the one side fare to around Rs 33,000. 

However, other worries had deterred thousands of people from the UK and other European countries to attempt a journey to the state in the midst of the pandemic. Concerns of unhygienic institutional quarantine and the fear of infecting aged parents if one opts for home quarantine had prompted them for a rethink. Now, many tour operators based in UK have started offering special ‘quarantine packages’ for prospective travellers.

The services offered include Vande Bharat Mission tickets booked through approved IATA agents, transportation to NORKA-approved hotels, seven days' food and accommodation, Covid test after a week’s quarantine and transportation facility to their homes.

"We launched the package following a flood of queries about quarantine facilities in Kerala. Besides the ticket charge, an NRK can avail of one week’s hygienic institutional quarantine along with food, Covid test on the eighth day and transportation to his residence for an additional Rs 10,000," said Jijo Madhavapallil, Director, Ashin City Tours and Travels Ltd based in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. He added that many people with aged parents at home are increasingly preferring this option. 

According to Eby Sebastian, vice-president, Union of UK Malayalee Associations (UUKMA), the quarantine package is beneficial not only to people from the UK but also NRKs in European countries. "It is indeed a welcome decision on the part of Air India to increase the frequency of direct flights to three times a week. Since these flights are in high demand, the direct service can very well be extended beyond March next year," he added.

The arrival of NRKs from the UK and other European countries is also expected to give a fillip to the state’s tourism sector.

27/10/20 New Indian Express

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