Tourists wishing to catch a glimpse of snowfall in Himachal Pradesh’s Lahaul- Spiti region, are in for some bad news as distrct administration has banned outsiders from entering the region due to a rise in Covid-19 cases. A police check post has been set up at Sissu to stop tourists from entering Lahaul- Spiti. The move comes in the backdrop of an unprecedented spike in Covid-19 positive cases with the district which has a population of just 20,000 reporting six deaths in the last few days.
Lahaul and Spiti regions of the state have been the worst affected by the pandemic and local administration has banned tourist activities there, till April 2021. “The locals adopt a different lifestyle during winters, and with temperatures dropping, chances of the virus spreading are very high. We have imposed the restrictions after consulting with panchayats officials and other stakeholders,” deputy commissioner Lahaul Spiti Pankaj Rai said.
However, the Rohtang Tunnel constructed to connect Lahaul-Spiti with the rest of the country will remain open for use by locals. Before the tunnel was opened, locals in the area were cut off from the rest of the country as heavy snowfall blocked other connectivity routes during winter.
Officials at Keylong also said that restrictions under Section 144, have been imposed in the area to ban gatherings of more than four people in public spaces. The panchayat administrations of Sissu, Sanskar, Gondola and Koksar were the first to impose a ban on tourist activities due to rising Covid-19 cases in the district. State health department data has reported 939 positive cases in the district out of which 417 are active cases. The situation in Tholang village, where 42 out of the 43 residents tested positive has sent panic waves across the region. Only one resident, Bhushan Thakur tested negative for the virus in the entire village.
Also, the state recorded its highest Covid-19 death toll on Saturday with 19 people succumbing to the virus. Local administration in Shimla has ordered all markets to remain closed on Sundays. Nine persons died in Shimla on Saturday due to the virus.
However, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur has ruled out the possibility of a lockdown in the state adding that to tackle spurt in case during winter the government will have to impose more stringent measures. Thakur has called for a meeting of the state cabinet on November 23 to take a decision regarding the same. The government is also discussing the idea of imposing night curfew in districts where cases have spiked sharply. According to officials, wedding functions and large social gatherings have been the main contributors to the rise in the cases in November 2020. Districts such as Shimla, Mandi, Kullu and Lahaul-Spiti have emerged as Covid-19 hotspots.
Currently Himachal’s Covid-19 tally stands at 33,700 with hospitals running out of beds in Covid wards.
"Out of the 4870 tests conducted on Saturday, 915 positive cases were reported. Shimla alone, has reported 290 cases. The situation is fast deteriorating and yet government hasn't woken-up from its slumber," former Shimla mayor Sanjay Chauhan said.