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HP Govt Again Faces Heat Over Lifting Restrictions on Tourists Haphazardly, Utility of e-Covid Pass in Question

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Viral video of himachal tourist cars

Shimla-RT-PCR report to enter in Himachal Pradesh is no longer a condition for visitors. As soon as the HP Cabinet announced this decision in its last meeting, tourists from neighbouring states started booking hotels in Himachal in advance. The decision cheered the hospitality industry which has borne huge losses as two peak sessions were washed off due to lockdowns and Covid related restrictions. But, at the same time, the rest of the public is in panic, especially after watching a video showing over one kilometer of traffic queues at the Parwanoo border on Sunday – a day before new guidelines came into force. A large number of these tourists had no idea about the date from which the new rules would come into effect and did not carry an RT-PCR negative report or registered on e-Covid portal. According to the police, they were asked to return as the new rules were applicable from 14 June onwards.

The video was shared by mainstream media too, expressing shock over the desperation of people to enter the state to get respite from scorching heat in neighboring states.

Except for the hoteliers and stakeholders in the tourism industry, the scene appeared nothing less than a nightmare considering repeated warnings issued by the government itself over the third wave of the Coronavirus pandemic. The government’s advance warning about the possibility that children might be more vulnerable during the third wave is creating more panic. After witnessing the rampage of the second wave in the state, this scene shook them. Most people were against removing the mandatory condition of furnishing an RT-PCR report for visitors. Others said this crowd of tourists would fuel the third wave and the devastation that it would bring with it. Some said “tourists are not welcomed”, others commented, “hills are not calling, stay away tourists”.

There were suggestions for the government to at least arrange rapid testing of visitors at the entry points. Questions were asked over government’s mechanism to ensure safety against spread of infection. 

The video created a stir in the state and the HP government had to issue a statement on Monday. In its statement, the government assured the people that the entry of tourists would be monitored through the e-covid pass portal. The visitors would still have to register on the portal and obtain a pass, which would be scanned at the entry points at borders.

However, hoteliers and the public questioned the relevance of the e-covid pass when tourists are not required to present a Covid negative report. In simple words, it is not possible to ascertain whether a particular visitor is infected or not. They argued that the e-covid pass did not fulfil any purpose and only leading to long traffic jams as police is supposed to scan these passes at designated entry points. If there is no purpose of scanning e-passes, then how would it help to protect the state from a further spread of infection?

At the same time, hoteliers and others involved with the hospitality industry directly or indirectly, are hopeful that the remaining pint of this peak tourist season would provide them with some relief. The state of the popular Indian Coffee House, which is on the verge of closure, is an apparent evidence of the hit that the industry has taken.

The decision of the government came under pressure from the industry. The stakeholders’ associations approached Chief Minister with a request to let them have the remaining peak seasons as the state government didn’t provide any relief. Because no relief was provided, the industry has no other way but to ask the government to lift Covid related restrictions on visitors. Moreover, the industry isn’t sure how long this remaining peak season would last as monsoon has already arrived in the state on July 13. 

In May, Mohinder Seth, President of, Tourism Industry Stake Holders Association had written to the government explaining the plight of those employed with the industry.

He had said that hoteliers and businessmen involved in the hospitality industry did not receive any relief from the government and managed their units/services by spending from savings or by raising loans.

The units had somehow managed to pay salaries and other expenses for the April month, the association said, but expressed inability to do so for the May month as the working capital has dropped to zero, Seth said.

Today, a delegation of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Northern India (HRANI) – a Northern outfit of the Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India-approached the Chief Minister and requested relief for the industry, which is the hardest hit due to the restrictions and struggles to survive.

The government might have lifted the restrictions, but it appears to be clueless about the management of the crowd and influx of visitors. The government numbers on entry of tourists into the state are also in question. According to a report published in an English Daily,

“As many as 7,201 persons entered Himachal yesterday on 2,787 e-passes but the Shimla police claimed that 5,000 vehicles arrived in Shimla.”

The report further said,  “If this is the case, then either the police, manning the entry points, is being liberal in allowing vehicles without an e-pass or some other routes are being used by tourists.”

This brings us to the lack of any robust mechanism or strategy to balance the management of tourist influx and prevention against the spread of infection.

Chief Minister Jairam Thakur-led government is again facing heat over its contentious decisions which appear to be devoid of any vision. Earlier too, Chief Minister has been alleged of being incapable to take decisions related to the interests of the state at his own. 

Madan has studied English Literature and Journalism from HP University and lives in Shimla. He is an amateur photographer and has been writing on topics ranging from environmental, socio-economic, development programs, education, eco-tourism, eco-friendly lifestyle and to green technologies for over 9 years now. He has an inclination for all things green, wonderful and loves to live in solitude. When not writing, he can be seen wandering, trying to capture the world around him in his DSLR lens.

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Shimla, Manali Receive Season’s First Spell of Snow, Cheers Tourism Industry

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snowfall in shimla 2021

Shimla-First spell of snow in Shimla’s tourist destinations, Narkanda and Kufri, has cheered the tourism industry as it would increase the footfall of tourists. Similarly, higher parts of Manali also reported a light spell of snow on Sunday evening. Lahaul-Spiti, however, reportedly witnessed heavy snowfall and Atal Tunnel, Rohtang, was closed for traffic. Parts of the Kinnaur district also recorded a spell of snow.

Chopal in Shimla had received 2-3 inches of snow, while Dodra Kwar recorded one foot of snow, according to the Met Department.

In Kullu, Jalori Pass had received 3 inches of snow, Rohtang top 2.5 feet, and Atal Tunnel 1.5 feet.

In Lahaul-Spiti, Koksar/Sissu had recorded 18 inches of snow, Keylong 8 inches, Darcha 12 inches, Udaipur 4 inches, Tindi 2 inches, Kaza 1 inch, and Lossar 2 inches of snow.

In Kinnaur, Chitkul had recorded 15.4 cms of snow, Kalpa 5 cms, and Sangla 7.62 cms. Nichar also received a light spell.

This change in weather has triggered a cold wave across the state. Further, the Himachal Pradesh Meteorological Department had issued a yellow alert for December 5, 2021. The Met has predicted rain and snow on December 6 too. While the weather is predicted to be dry on December 8, the state could witness more rain and snow on December 7 and December 9, according to the Met Department.

Most roads, except in Lahaul-Spiti, remain open to traffic movement, the district administrations of Shimla and Kullu confirmed. Further, the administrations said preparations are being made to keep the roads clear in case of heavy snowfall.

This tourist season is crucial for the hospitality industry which was worst hit by the pandemic induced restrictions. However, the entry of Omicron – the new variant of Covid-19 that has been termed as a variant of concern by the WHO-haunts the season. India had reported as many as 21 cases of Omicron till Sunday. If the HP Government decides to impose restrictions on the entry of the domestic tourist in view of the spread of the new variant, the hospitality industry could again face losses.  

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Himachal Achieves 100% Vaccination Target, OPD at AIIMS, Bilaspur, Inaugurated   

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vaccination second dose in himachal pradesh

Shimla-Himachal Pradesh has achieved the 100 percent target of the second dose of Covid vaccination, the State government informed on Sunday.  Himachal Pradesh has become the first State of the country in achieving the target of cent per cent vaccination of targeted eligible age group, it informed.  

According to the HP Government, all eligible 53,86,393 adults have been administered the second dose of the vaccine.

District-Wise Vaccination Details

District

Number of People Vaccinated 

Bilaspur  318150
Chamba 352605
Hamirpur 361954
Kangra 1140439
Kinnaur 68460
Kullu 322643
Lahaul-Spiti 25494
Mandi 738818
Shimla 634019
Sirmaru 410187
Solan 584326
Una 429298

A complete vaccination was performed first in the inaccessible areas and tribal areas of the state and Kinnaur district became the first district in the entire country to administer the second dose of the vaccine to all eligible adults, the government informed.

On this occasion, Jagat Prakash Nadda, the Member of Parliament and National BJP President, also addressed a felicitation ceremony of Covid Vaccination Workers at Bilaspur on Sunday.

Nadda also dedicated the first OPD at AIIMS Kothipura in Bilaspur. The AIIMS Bilaspur would be made fully functional within the next six months, said Nadda.

 

jp nadda at aiims bilaspur

JP Nadda at AIIMS Bilaspur

He said that the foundation stone of this institution was laid about three years back and it would have been completed a year ago, but the pace was affected due to the corona pandemic. He said that Himachal Pradesh has got an Rs. 500 crore Satellite centre of PGI Chandigarh at Una.

He also congratulated the State Government, doctors, health care workers and all the frontline workers for achieving this unique feat. 

Union Minister of Health, Chemicals and Fertilizers Mansukh Mandaviya, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Youth Affairs and Sports Anurag Singh were also present on the occasion

 

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Himachal Records Fresh Spell of Snow, HP Met Issues Alert

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snowfall in himachal pradesh

Shimla-The weather in Himachal Pradesh has taken a turn with a prediction of rain and snowfall till December 5, 2021. At the time of writing this report, Kaza in Lahaul-Spiti was receiving a fresh spell of snow, cheering the tourists, as well as, the hoteliers. So far, the traffic movement was normal in the region.

This has caused a sharp drop in temperatures across the state.

The District Administration of Lahaul-Spiti has advised the locals and tourists to avoid wandering to high altitude areas unnecessarily.

The HP Meteorological Department, Shimla, has also issued a yellow alert for December 2 and December 5. While the plains can experience light to moderate rainfall at a few places,  the middle and higher hills could witness widespread rain and snow on December 2.   

For December 4, the HP Met had predicted light to moderate rain across the state. For December 5, however, the Met has issued an yellow alert with a prediction of rain and snow at several places.

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