When the country started to witness a significant decline in the second wave of Covid-19 earlier this month, pictures of heavily crowded streets thronging hill stations without masks or social distancing had created an uproar among netizens. The photos had prompted the Central government to interfere and issue an alert in this regard.
Now the numbers are out, and they are alarming! Official figures show 35,425 tourists visited the outskirts of Nainital whereas 32,000 more reached Mussoorie in Uttarakhand over the last weekend, The Indian Express reported.
Among them, about 33,000 visitors were given a clean chit to enter Nainital, and 20,000 more were allowed to set foot in Mussoorie. The rest were turned back on various grounds, ranging from not carrying a Covid-negative report or proof of hotel booking to failure to register on the state government-mandated portal.
Tourist Rush Increases By 4 Times
Officials said that the tourist influx at the hill stations soared by at least four times in the first weekend of July compared to June. The reason, as per officials, was the weekend lockdown across the state from April to June.
"All the documents were checked at borders, and only those who fulfilled the conditions were allowed in Mussoorie. Still, there were tourists who were carrying negative RT PCR reports but not wearing masks…Rapid Antigen Tests were done for them to create awareness about the importance of Covid-appropriate behaviour. Over 150 such tests were done on Saturday and Sunday, and all tested negative, Mussoorie SDM Manish Kumar told The Indian Express.
On July 9, the Ministry of Home Affairs sounded a caution given the blatant disregard of Covid-appropriate behaviour in tourist locations. It held a meeting with eight states, including Uttarakhand, to "ensure strict adherence to the protocols prescribed…"
According to Uttarakhand's Covid protocols, registering on the Dehradun smart city portal has been mandatory for people travelling from other states. In addition, carrying a Covid-negative report from a test conducted within the past 72 hours and confirmed booking in hotels is compulsory.
About 4000 Vehicles Turned Back
Officials stated that over 9,500 vehicles had reached Mussoorie in the first weekend of July, while Nainital recorded the entry of 9,466 vehicles from last Friday to Sunday. However, 3,900 vehicles were denied entry to Mussoorie on July 11, and at least 415 tourists issued challans for violating Covid protocols on July 10 and July 11. SSP Preeti Priyadarshini told The Indian Express that "day visitors" were not given entry in the city area on the weekend.
Sandeep Sahni, Uttarakhand Hotels Association's head, said over 90 per cent of hotels in Mussoorie and Dehradun were occupied on Saturday and 60 per cent on Sunday. "Tourists have already started advance bookings for the next weekend," he said.