Himachal Pradesh health department increases testing for Covid-19 with record tourist arrivals

Published on : Thursday, January 7, 2021

The Himachal Pradesh health department has increased testing for Covid-19 with tourist arrivals breaking 20-year-old records during Christmas and New Year celebrations following extensive snowfall in the higher altitudes.
Hotel occupancy has gone up to 75%, marking a welcome change from 15% last year when the Covid-19 lockdown harshly affected the industry.

However, visitor influx has raised concerns about infection spike and other problems.

Traffic jams have increased, especially on the Kalka-Shimla and Mandi-Manali highways.

“Medical teams have been constantly conducting rapid testing of hotel staffs in Shimla and so far only two staff members have tested positive at the government run guest house at Willy’s park. We are trying to keep the sampling rate high to detect as many cases as possible. Hotel owners have been requested to get their staff tested on priority,” said Surekha Chopra, chief medical officer in Shimla.

More than 1.4 lakh vehicles entered Shimla town from the barrier at Shoghi during the last 10 days. The biggest traffic inflow was witnessed on December 31 for New Year Celebrations with 18,000 vehicles, mainly from Haryana, Punjab, Chandigarh, Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh, entering Shimla.

On January 1, 2021, it was 15,000 after a snowfall forecast.

Tourism officials estimate that more than five lakh tourists visited Shimla between December 25 and January 4, 2021, breaking a 20-year-old tourist arrivals record.

High tourist arrivals were also reported from Kullu-Manali, where Rohtang Tunnel has become a biggest attraction, along with Dharamshala –McLeodganj, Dalhousie, Khajjiar and Kasauli and Chail.

“Tourists are thronging Shimla in large numbers since December 22 because of which the industry is slowly recovering from the huge setback of the total lockdown since March 22, 2020. Hotel owners are ensuring that all standard operating procedures are followed and are providing details of guests to the tourism department. Till now we have not received any news of cases in hotels or restaurants,” said Sanjay Sood, the president of the Shimla Hoteliers and Restaurateurs Association.

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