A day after lifting all restrictions on entry into Himachal Pradesh, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur expressed concerns over a possible spike in COVID-19 cases and proposed setting-up five makeshift hospitals dedicated to treating those infected by the virus. He also announced that all asymptomatic cases and those with mild symptoms will now be treated at their homes, while hospital services will be available only for serious cases.
Defending the decision to end border restrictions, he said it was done on public demand and the advise of the Union Home Ministry to enable business activities and free movement of persons and goods.
The Opposition Congress described the move as a retrograde step clearly reflective of state government’s casual and confused approach towards the pandemic. “People thought they are safe in the hands of Jai Ram Thakur, but they will realise now they are under Ram Bharose,” said leader of the Opposition Mukesh Agnihotri. Claiming the government appeared to have completely given-up efforts to help those infected with the virus and the families of those who had died, he said: “I think it’s going to be a terrible time for the state and its people as the borders got opened in a huff, or under the centre's pressure.”
Defending the lifting of curbs, the Chief Minister said it’s wasn't just Himachal where cases were rising at a faster pace, and noted that Maharashtra had 10.98 lakh cases with 30,409 deaths, Delhi had 2.26 lakh cases with 4.806 deaths ,Rajasthan had 1.06 lakh cases with 1,264 deaths, Punjab had 84,482 cases with 2,514 deaths and Uttarakhand 34,407 cases with 438 deaths.
Admitting that concerns and risks remained, he urged people to understand and take extra precautions as the disease was at its community spread stage. The makeshift hospitals, which will have 50 beds each with all necessary equipment and infrastructure, will come-up at Shimla, Tanda, Nalagarh (next to Industrial belt of Baddi-Brotiwala), Nahan and Una. These hospitals will be reserved for treatment of severe and moderate cases in the coming days.
Earlier this month, the government allowed bars and restaurants to open subject to strict regulations on social distancing and providing an infection free environment for customers. The lifting of these restrictions saw a huge rush of people driving to Himachal Pradesh and Shimla. Parwanoo, a gateway to Shimla, reported long queues of vehicles from Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Delhi entering the state.