Indian authorities fear a rush of tourists in the mountainous cities of the Himalayas risks feeding new outbreaks of Covid-19 while warning of a potential summer resurgence of the virus.
Indians have flocked to popular mountain retreats like Shimla, Manali and Mussoorie in recent weeks to escape the scorching heat of summer and take advantage of most of a recent decline in the number of coronavirus cases. in the village, after one second devastating wave of the virus this year.
Much of the country, including the mountain states dependent on tourism, reopen and local authorities have encouraged national travel in hopes of limiting the strong economic impact of extended closures.
But officials, who warned that India could face a third wave in the coming months, the influx of tourists could jeopardize this harsh recovery while some parts of the country have continued to struggle with high Covid positivity rates and increasing transmission.
India’s interior minister sounded the alarm on Saturday over the “blatant disregard of Covid-appropriate behavior in mountain resorts and other tourist resorts”. VK Paul, the head of India’s Covid-19 task force, said Friday that there was “a new emerging risk” from the flow of tourism activity.
At the height of the second wave of May, India recorded more than 400,000 infections and 4,000 deaths a day – both figures believed to be vastly tiny – in a brutal wave that overrated health systems.
The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who faced it fierce criticism for complacency and in order not to avoid the attack, he sought to reassure the public that he was preparing for the potential for a resurgence in the cases.
While the official number of daily cases has dropped to around 40,000, part of India is fighting for a renewed transmission. Maharashtra, the richest state in India and home to the financial capital Mumbai, has imposed some blockade measures while the state of southern Kerala has has recorded an increasing number of cases.
The interior minister said the rate of positive tests in parts of the states including West Bengal, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh – all of which host popular mountain retreats – have exceeded their 10 per cent threshold.
The images of a masked crowd staring out at scenic spots and cluttered mountain roads have provoked fear. According to the local Hindustan Times newspaper, police said they were returning 2,000 cars on their way to Mussoorie, a tourist destination in Uttarakhand.
Of India tourism industry it is on the verge of disaster, however, with international tourists actually banned from the country since the beginning of the pandemic.
The government announced several relief measures last month, including loans guaranteed to tour guides and businesses, many of which are in financial ruin.
Experts said the dangers of a third wave were exacerbated by the slow rate of vaccination, with India continuing to face a shortage of blows with which to inoculate its population.
Since the hit of an 8.6 m daily vaccination record at the end of June, the number of doses administered each day has fallen below 4 m.
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