Images of tourists thronging Himachal Pradesh have brought condemnation on social media as the country braces for a possible third wave of Coronavirus. Experts have been advising against large crowds ever since the pandemic reached India. The two earlier waves of Covid - the first after huge gatherings during last year's festive season in September-October and the second after crowds during Kumbh earlier this year - have made it clear that the disease gets a fresh lease of life every time social distancing norms are violated.
This time, amid the ongoing heatwave in North India, a sea of people reached tourist hotspots like Shimla, Kufri, Narkanda, Dalhousie, Manali, Lahaul, and other places in the hill state to escape the scorching heat and spend some quality time.
Himachal Pradesh | Tourists throng in Shimla as heatwave hits Delhi, north India— ANI (@ANI) July 5, 2021
"As there are reports that 3rd wave of COVID19 will come, so we'd decided to use this no lockdown period," says Nishant, a tourist from Delhi pic.twitter.com/YWAA4IP7cQ
The other reason behind the influx of tourists is the state government's decision to withdraw the condition of negative RTPCR report and e-Covid pass to enter the hill state, where the economy is heavily dependent on tourism.
"After the COVID-19 restrictions were relaxed in June, we've received about 6 to 7 Lakh tourists in the state so far. Tourist inflow has been increased as heatwave hits the northern part of the country," Amit Kashyap, Director, Tourism Department told ANI.
The tourism sector in Himachal Pradesh contributes 7 per cent to state GDP.
Many on social media have called out the insensitive behaviour of the people who are putting lives at risk.
"Sadistic pleasures, muted Governance; these days at Manali."— KUMAR. K (@KkHimalaya) July 5, 2021
You will foot the bills running into lakhs and some of us despite all this shall beg for death because of their momentary enjoyment!????????????#3rdWave#Manali#COVID19pic.twitter.com/tcexVcDvMW
A senior police officer of Himachal Pradesh called the crowds in Manali "tourism with a vengeance" and indirectly urged people to not rush to the state amid the pandemic.
"Over 10,000 vehicles crossed Parwanoo towards Shimla over the weekend. Hotels, home stays are all packed to capacity even in remote corners of Shimla and Kinnaur," the officer posted on Twitter.
Over 10,000 vehicles crossed Parwanoo towards Shimla over the weekend. Hotels, home stays are all packed to capacity even in remote corners of Shimla and Kinnaur.— Himanshu Misra ???????? (@himisra) July 5, 2021
This is tourism with a vengeance !
He urged people to consider the impact on Himachal Pradesh.
Though Covid caused an 81 per cent decline in tourist arrival in last year, it has also seen a fair share of Covid. The total numbers were 2496207. Himachal Pradesh reported 158 fresh coronavirus cases and 1 death on Monday, while 165 patients recovered in the state.