Tourists Rush to Himachal Pradesh: India, Hold Off on #Wanderlust, We Haven’t Defeated Covid-19 Yet


Tourists Rush to Himachal Pradesh: India, Hold Off on #Wanderlust, We Haven’t Defeated Covid-19 Yet

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

As parts of the country continue to remain under strict lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic, the partial unlocking of Himachal Pradesh has irked several locals and businesses.

A week after Himachal Pradesh announced its intention to open up to travellers, there has been a mad scramble of tourists rushing to enter the mountain state.

According to a number of reports, queues at some of Himachal’s entry points — including in the country’s favourite honeymoon town Shimla — are now extending over several hundred metres. Long traffic jams have also been reported from other parts of the state.

While this sudden urge to wanderlust is understandable, especially given the last few months of complete lockdown, a number of residents of Himachal have been up in arms over the government’s intention to open up to tourists so quickly.

Many locals have argued that the move will counter the collective effort made over the last few months to keep the virus in check.

A petition has now also been filed in the High Court, requesting that it reverse the government’s July 2 order, which allowed outsiders to travel to Himachal provided they could furnish a Covid-19 negative certificate.

Earlier this week, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur had announced that tourists would soon be welcome in the state, with few regulations in place.

“Registrations would be mandatory and we would keep a record if someone is tested positive and this record will help in contact tracing,” the CM was quoted as saying. “This is peak tourism time in the state. We are trying this to revive the economy in the region.”

However, it isn’t just locals, but also hoteliers who have expressed apprehensions at allowing tourists to enter. While some have raised concerns that their staff will be put at risk by such an order, many others decided they would stay shut until September anyway.

Panchayats in areas like Manali have also reportedly refused to allow tourists to enter.

Given that most of the country has now spent over 100 days under lockdown, it makes sense that travellers can’t wait to flock to tourist destinations like Goa and Himachal Pradesh. However, with very real fears that this could lead to a second outbreak, it may also make sense to hold off on the wanderlust for another couple of months, at least.