Putting up loud hoardings, stocking 50 cartons of hand sanitisers, tracking the travel history of hotel guests, and procuring thermal scanners to check ticket-holders at 15 entry points.
Dharamasala, one of India’s most picturesque cricket venues, is going all out to ensure that the coronavirus shadow does not fall on the HPCA Stadium for the first One-Day International between India and South Africa on Thursday.
The day-night game will be the first major sporting event in the country since the outbreak of the virus, which led to the cancellation of the shooting World Cup in New Delhi, the junior athletics Federation Cup in Bhopal and Santosh Trophy in Aizawl.
“We have a list of passengers with their travel history. Overall, people who have travelled to the high-risk countries, such as China, Japan, South Korea, Italy and Iran, on or after February 10, have been put under the watch. Even if they have purchased tickets, they will not be allowed entry for the match. Hotels have been asked to furnish details of their guests’ travel records,” said Dr Ravinder Rana, HPCA’s chief medical officer, who is overseeing measures at the venue on the foothills of the slow-clad Dhauladhar range.
Referring to the origins of the outbreak, one hoarding screams: “Wuhan mein chupa Coronavirus se bachav ka formula (Formula to save yourself from the Wuhan Coronavirus).” It includes some nifty wordplay, too, around ‘Wuhan’. W: Wash hands, U: Use mask properly, H: Have temperature checked regularly, A: Avoid large crowd, N: Never touch face with unclean hands.
On the field, meanwhile, when the captains walk out for the toss, Virat Kohli and his South African counterpart Quinton de Kock are unlikely to shake hands.
On Holi, with two days to go for the match, the tourist hill town wore a deserted look, and shops and restaurants remained closed.
The Himachal cricket association insisted that precautions have been taken to ensure the match gets underway as per schedule. Their only plea: “Don’t spread unnecessary panic.”
“We have 15 thermal scanners, like the ones used in airports to check passengers, in each of the entry points to scrutinise everyone who enters the premises on match day. We have also arranged for cartons of hand sanitisers that will be made available inside the stadium,” Rana said.
Over the last two weeks, the district administration has been regularly in touch with airport authorities. Hotel staff at the plush Hotel Pavilion, where both the teams are put up, have been asked to wear masks.
The state association officials expect a good turnout, more so because the last international match — a T20I game — between India and South Africa was washed out in September 2019.
“Despite the coronavirus fear, we expect a decent turnout. As of yesterday, around 9,000 out of the 23,000 tickets have been sold out,” media co-ordinator Mohit Sud said.
No case of coronavirus has been reported so far from Himachal Pradesh. But employees at Conifer, a hotel situated next to the stadium, said the influx of foreign tourists in the twin towns of Dharamsala and Mcleodganj have dropped by around 30 percent, compared to last year.
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