The Himachal Pradesh government on Thursday banned the entry of all tourists from outside the state – including domestic and foreign tourists – till further notice, in the wake of coronavirus outbreak.
“Keeping in view the emergence of positive cases in all neighbouring states, including a case coming out to be positive at Chandigarh last night, a need is being felt to restrict the entry of tourists (both domestic and foreign nationals) to prevent the import of virus in the state,” an order issued by Additional Chief Secretary (Health) RD Dhiman said.
It added that widespread information, education and communication (IEC) activities must be undertaken within and outside the state to spread these instructions to avoid unnecessary harassment to the people and to ask them to reschedule their visits “after the crisis is over”.
Police checkposts at entry points to the state in the border districts have been instructed to check all vehicles, and restrict the entry of tourists.
Reena Bhadalya, a resident of Shimla who was returning from Delhi on Thursday evening, said that she was stopped at a police barricade in Solan and asked to “go back as Shimla is closed”, and only allowed to proceed when officials ascertained she was not a tourist.
Officials said that hotels, guesthouses and homestays across the state have been directed to urge all foreign tourists to leave the state, though no official order has been issued to this effect.
The state government cancelled 31 long-route inter-state buses, mostly Volvo buses operating from Shimla, Dharamshala and Manali to Delhi and Chandigarh. The HRTC also cut short the route of Shimla-Tanakpur bus till Haridwar, and banned the entry of all private tourist buses. All buses and vehicles entering the state are being sanitised and passengers screened before entry, officials said.
Ninety one more people in the state with a travel history to the nations most affected by COVID-19 have been placed under home isolation, taking the total number of those currently isolated to 370, state health department officials said on Thursday.
Till date, no person in the state has been tested positive for the disease.
According to the department, 746 residents/visitors in the state have been placed under surveillance so far. Among these people, 279 people have already completed 28 days of observation while 89 others have left the state. Eight people were tested for the virus after they showed symptoms of the disease, but none of them tested positive.
Alarmed by reports of a positive case in neighbouring Chandigarh, residents of Shimla and other towns enhanced precautionary measures, scrambling to buy sanitisers, masks and stocks of essential commodities.
“Public transport in the entire region is set to be suspended which will affect the supply of several vital items such as milk and milk products, which are largely supplied by Punjab,” said Shimla resident Hemant Kumar. The HP State Rural Livelihood Mission on Thursday started selling masks which are available at its outlet in the Secretariat in Chhota Shimla.
“The triple-layer masks are made by self-help groups out of non-woven cloth, and priced at Rs 12 per piece,” Rural Development Secretary Dr R N Batta said.
“Residents can also place orders for the masks on the mobile number 81948-90099,” he added.
The State Election Commission has withdrawn the model code of conduct and the notified election programme for the conduct of a by-election in a ward of the Chamba Municipal Council, a spokesperson of the Commission said.
In Shimla, DC Amit Kashyap said that people spreading rumours about an impending closure of market-places and lockdown are being traced and will be dealt with strictly.
“If any such action (lockdown) is to be taken, it will be done only after making requisite arrangements for the well-being of the residents and after informing them through official communication in a timely manner,” he said.
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