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Monday, August 03, 2020

Tourists flock to Himachal, cause long queues at borders

Tourists, especially those from the neighbouring states, have started coming to the state in large numbers, resulting in queues at police barriers due to the completion of various formalities related to their entry.

Written by Gagandeep Singh Dhillon | Shimla | Published: July 9, 2020 12:04:59 am
shimla covid-19 lockdown, shimla tourism, shimla open for tourists, himachal pradesh government permission for tourists, indian express news Health and police officials said that tourists are only being permitted entry following medical screening and verification of their test report. (File)

Entry points to the state and some of the districts have been witnessing long queues of vehicles for the past few days ever since the Himachal Pradesh government allowed the entry of tourists into the state.

Tourists, especially those from the neighbouring states, have started coming to the state in large numbers, resulting in queues at police barriers due to the completion of various formalities related to their entry.

Last week, the Himachal government allowed the entry of those tourists who have a prior booking at a hotel or homestay in the state and a negative COVID-19 test report from an ICMR-accredited laboratory within the last 72 hours at the time of entry.

On Wednesday, the queue of vehicles at the Shoghi police barrier in Shimla stretched for several hundred metres on one side of national highway 5, as tourists, employees and local residents returning from outside Himachal waited to enter the district. Shoghi lies at the Solan-Shimla district border on the Chandigarh-Shimla road.

Health and police officials said that tourists are only being permitted entry following medical screening and verification of their test reports, hotel bookings and online registration on a government portal. The police are also registering Himachal residents returning home for deciding their quarantine and medical surveillance, except those who are returning within 48 hours as mentioned on their passes.

However, local buses and commuters from the area are being allowed to cross the barrier without verification.
People stuck in the queue complained of being stranded for hours. Several of them posted their suggestions and complaints on the Facebook page of the Shimla police. One Vivek Sharma said that around three-four lines of vehicles were created at the barrier on Monday, resulting in a traffic jam. The police replied that some people created a law-and-order situation, blaming the police for the long time taken at the barrier. “That day, people were arguing with the police and wanted to cross the barrier without verification. We cannot allow it,” the police said.

Yashwant Chauhan, said that there is no permanent shelter for police and medical staff, and he saw them working in heavy rain while Anurag Sharma said that lack of an electric generator at the counters led to a traffic jam during a power cut of two-three hours. Mohit Mahajan suggested that the police should do barcode scanning as is being done in Parwanoo, in order to save time.

The Shimla police said that several complaints of traffic jams at the Shoghi barrier are being received. “Vehicles have increased following relaxation in rules. Health verification and quarantine decisions are also being made here, so it takes time. A new counter has been opened for expediting the process and it’s now taking less time as compared to Sunday. We request people to start early if they’re coming to Shimla, and any police-related grievance can be lodged at 8894728001-7,” an official said.

The Kullu police said that in the last three days, 20 tourist vehicles have been sent back from the district borders due to non-fulfilment of conditions required for entry. The police said that the vehicles had around 70 tourists from Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Rajasthan, Telengana, Uttar Pradesh and other states.

What tourists need to do

According to the SOP by the state tourism department, a tourist needs to fulfil following conditions for entry into HP:

Get registered on covidepass.hp.gov.in under ‘tourist’ category at least 48 hours before entering Himachal

Get tested for COVID-19 through the RT-PCR test not more than 72 hours prior to entry into state, and carry the test certificate issued by an ICMR authorised/certified lab showing a negative report

Get a confirmed booking for at least five days at a registered tourism unit

Download Aarogya Setu app

Undergo thermal screening at hotel/homestay before check-in

The department has also issued detailed guidelines, precautions and instructions for wayside amenities, taxi service, sightseeing places, adventure sports activities and banqueting, among other things.

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