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‘Pandemic not yet over’: MHA warns as tourist hotspots see rising footfalls

Massive waves of tourists have descended on places such as Mussoorie and Manali in recent days.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: July 10, 2021 11:19:25 pm
Crowds return to the streets of Manali as Covid-induced restrictions are eased. (Photo: PTI)

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Saturday reviewed the Covid-19 situation in hill stations and tourist locations after pictures of large crowds blatantly violating social distancing norms and Covid protocols at tourist spots surfaced online.

The MHA emphasised that the second wave of Covid was not yet over and states should ensure strict adherence to the protocols prescribed in respect of wearing of masks, social distancing and other safe behaviour.

Lockdown relaxations, Manali Here, tourists are seen visiting the Hidimba Devi temple in Manali that was recently reopened. (PTI Photo)

Massive waves of tourists have descended on places such as Mussoorie and Manali in recent days.

Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla reviewed the steps taken by the state governments for checking the spread of Covid-19 at hill stations and tourist locations, a home ministry statement said. He also sounded a note of caution against disregard of Covid-appropriate behaviour at tourist locations and said that the pandemic was not yet over.

The review meeting also discussed the overall management of the Covid-19 situation and the vaccination status in Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, and West Bengal.

It conveyed that the decline of the second wave is at variable stages in the different states and UTs in the country, and while the overall case positivity rate may be declining, the case positivity rate in certain districts of Rajasthan, Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh is over 10 percent, which is a cause for concern, the statement added.

Tourists visit the Mall Road after relaxation in COVID-19 curfew, in Manali, Saturday, July 3, 2021. (PTI)

The states were asked to follow the strategy of Test-Track-Treat-Vaccinate, ensure Covid-appropriate behaviour and prepare adequate health infrastructure, especially in rural, peri-urban and tribal areas, to tackle any potential future surge in cases.

Saturday’s meeting was attended by V K Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog; Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Director General, Indian Council for Medical Research; and Chief Secretaries, Directors General of Police and Principal Secretaries (Health) of the eight states.

On Friday, the head of India’s pandemic task force Paul had flagged the blatant violations of Covid norms in several parts of the country, especially at hill stations and said that cases can explode if people continue to behave recklessly.

Tourists flock to Shimla as restrictions are eased at the hill station. (Photo: PTI)

“Within the country, we are seeing people being complacent. The violations being seen in both small and large cities, the markets…particularly in the tourist destinations, where people are going for relaxation…we can see a new risk emerging there. If this type of mingling continues to take place, and if social distancing norms are violated, the virus can spread…,” Paul had said.

“We need to have a balanced approach. There is a need for tourism; however, if there are violations, there could be a serious situation. We can stop this at this moment… This is a cause for concern because of the visuals that are being witnessed, where crowds are mingling, social distancing is not being maintained. This has been highlighted at no lesser place than the Cabinet meeting taken by the Prime Minister yesterday (Thursday),” he had said.

“It is the responsibility of the local administration of these tourist places that Covid-19-appropriate behaviour is strictly enforced. The market welfare societies are also responsible… We know that tourism and livelihood are important; however, there cannot be any negligence on Covid-19 norms. Both can mutually exist,” Paul had noted.

(With inputs from PTI)

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