Thursday, Sep 29, 2022

Covid Restriction To Continue In Himachal, But Norms For Tourists Relaxed

The Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur decided to reduce the minimum stay of the tourists to two days from five days.

Monsoon clouds hover over the hill-station of Shimla. PTI Photo

Himachal Pradesh on Monday decided to continue with the ongoing Coronavirus-induced restrictions  but in an attempt to revive the tourism industry, the state Cabinet announced to relax some conditions on stay of tourists in the hill state.

The Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla in a letter to the state’s Chief Secretary Anil Khachi two days back had advised against imposing restrictions on inter-state and intra-state movement of people and goods. 

However, the state state cabinet, which met on Monday to consider the MHA's directive,  resolved that it will continue with the restrictions. 

“We have developed our own mechanism. The visitors from other states are required to get themselves registered at E-Covid portal. This is necessary for the purpose of contact tracing and maintaining a record of persons coming to the state, their destinations and period/places of stay. It will continue for sometime now,” Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said.

Also, the government relaxed the norm for the tourists to bring along Covid-19 negative reports.

The inter-state buses and night travel facility to the state will also take some time to resume, said Thakur.

The Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Thakur also decided to reduce the minimum stay of the tourists to two days from five days. This was done to facilitate tourists coming to Shimla and Dharamshala or elsewhere on weekends.

“Himachal Pradesh is still seeing a spike in the cases. We have decided to keep a status quo and also to be vigilant,” said the Chief Minister.

The four months of Coronavirus-induced lockdown in Himachal Pradesh have hit the state's tourism sector hard. However, the hoteliers are in a dilemma -- torn between the fear of Coronavirus spread and uncertain about the footfall of the tourists in the hilly state in the times of pandemic.

Though few hoteliers at Shimla, Dharamshala and Manali have resumed their limited operations, a majority of them are not taking the risks. Another factor that stops the hoteliers from resuming their business is the resistance by locals against allowing tourists from other states.

“There are still risks in opening up the hotels. There is no COVID care centre in the entire Kullu district. Also, no provision of Rapid Testing is available anywhere here. What will happen if any tourist tests positive? The government has no answers,” says Anup Thakur, President Kullu-Manali Hoteliers Association.

The number of cases in Himachal Pradesh has risen to 5,054 with 27 deaths, at least five of these during the past four days.