Himachal Pradesh issues new Covid rules after tourists rush in
The Himachal Pradesh government has issued a travel advisory for tourists and made Covid e-pass mandatory after thousands of people flocked the state, popular for its scenic mountain towns and resorts, causing massive traffic jams in several areas over the weekend.
Himachal Pradesh chief minister Jai Ram Thakur said on Monday said though the government has removed the condition of RT-PCR negative report entering the state they must follow Covid-19 guidelines. While replying to a media query about the heavy rush of tourists seen on the state’s borders, Thakur said nobody will be allowed to flout the government's norms to check the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Thakur said people visiting the state would be monitored through registration on the Covid e-pass software. He said pass applicants have to enter their particulars in the online system and that details of their arrival were being shared with all the stakeholders concerned.
Roads leading to Himachal Pradesh saw congestions, bringing traffic to a standstill, on Sunday as tourists from the neighbouring states of Haryana, Punjab, Chandigarh, Delhi and Uttarakhand made a beeline. This came after the Himachal Pradesh government's announcement that RT-PCR negative tests are no longer required to enter the state.
Mohit Chawla, Shimla's superintendent of police (SP), said at least 5000 vehicles entered Shimla from the Shoghi barrier on Saturday and Sunday. "There is a huge influx of tourists after the state government relaxed Covid guidelines. We anticipated the increase in the tourist movement during the weekend, but what is heartening to note is that people are following Covid protocols," he said, according to news agency ANI.
Chawla said 10 additional police reserves are deployed in the whole district along with traffic police to manage the influx of tourist vehicles. "Around two and a half to three reserves are stationed alone in Shimla city along with city police to manage the tourists. Patrolling parties are guiding the tourists and we are requesting them to follow Covid protocols," he added.
And in Parwanoo, a nearly 2km-long queue of vehicles was reported at the border where the tourists have to get themselves registered. Similar rush was witnessed at other state entry points, including Bilaspur, Mehatpur in Una and Kandwal barrier of Kangra district.
On Friday, the Himachal Pradesh government under the new guidelines lifted Section 144 in the state and said negative RT-PCR tests will no longer be required to cross the state borders.
The tourism industry, hit by the restrictions imposed to contain the second wave of coronavirus in April, now has a reason to cheer as tourists from the neighbouring states have started flocking to the hill stations of Himachal Pradesh.
The tourism industry, which contributes 9 per cent to Himachal Pradesh's GDP, has faced losses worth more than ₹1,500 crore and lakh of people employed in the hotel industry lost their jobs as the lockdown was imposed in the state.
“The year was terrible for the industry so far as we were unable to meet even capital expenses. We hope that the ‘unlock’ will revive the sector,” Sanjay Sood, the president of Shimla Hotel and Restaurateurs’ Association, said.
Anoop Thakur, the president of the Manali Hotel Association, also welcomed the administration’s decision to open the Rohtang pass, a major tourist destination. Thakur said it would help the ailing tourism industry get back on track.
Himachal Pradesh on Monday reported 326 new cases of Covid-19 and seven related deaths and now the state has 198,876 infections, while the death toll has crossed 3382.