Amid the recent surge in Covid-19 cases in the state with several instances of a significant number of tourists testing positive especially in the town of Rishikesh, experts say Haridwar and Rishikesh are emerging as the hotspots of the infection in Uttarakhand.
The fear was evident with the incidents including one Covid-19 infection at a five-star hotel in Rishikesh where about 76 people tested positive for the virus leading the administration to shut down the hotel for three days for sanitisation.
Similarly, before that, 22 tourists part of a 50 member contingent from Gujarat who came to Rishikesh, tested positive for Covid-19 leading to panic among the locals in the town. In another incident, 11 staff of a yoga resort also tested positive for the virus a few days ago.
Besides the apprehension that Mahakumbh could emerge as a superspreader, the incidents are worrying the hoteliers and people related to the hospitality industry in Rishikesh who fear that if tourists continue to test positive in the town, then it may severely affect their business-like last year’s lockdown. Also, many people who are coming to Mahakumbh are either visiting Rishikesh, or staying there given better hotels and accommodations there.
Government should conduct random testing of guests: Hoteliers
Greater Rishikesh Hotels and Resorts Association president Vijay Bisht said, “The rising number of cases among tourists is obviously a matter of concern for us. As more cases get reported, the more tourists will refrain from coming to Rishikesh, affecting our business which already hit a low last year due to lockdown during peak tourism season.”
Urging the government to conduct random Covid-19 tests on guests coming to the town and isolate them if found positive, Bisht said, “Shutting down a hotel if guests test positive is not the solution. It not only damages the reputation of the hotel but also sends a negative message among the tourists to not visit the place fearing the infection.”
“Instead, the government should isolate the people turning positive instead of creating a hype about the spread. The government should create fear but aware the people on taking precautions so as to curb the infection,” said Bisht adding that the hotels at their level are also taking all the necessary precautions.
He said that the hotels in the town are focusing on keeping their staff safe while asking them to follow all precautions strictly.
“We cannot ask all the guests to bring mandatory Covid-19 RT-PCR negative test report as it will discourage them from coming which will then hamper our business,” said Bisht.
Another hotelier and founding member of Rishikesh Hotel Association, Sanjiv Goyal said, “The business is already down this season too.”
Goyal said, “Our business last year was almost nil as the hotels were closed due to the lockdown. This month too after Covid-19 cases have increased again, our business is dipping with most of the bookings being cancelled in the last few days.”
He said that usually during Holi, all the Rishikesh hotels are full, “But this year it didn’t happen.”
Goyal also said that, “There is also no business for the Char Dham Yatra so far”
Rishikesh is considered to be the gateway to Char Dham Yatra, but so far there have been no bookings for it on hotels. We are fearing a repetition of last year’s business situation if the cases continue to rise.”
Government needs to strictly implement precautions: Experts
Amid the rising number of Covid-19 cases, experts said that the government needs to “implement the precautions more strictly”.
Anoop Nautiyal, social activist who had been keeping an eye on the Covid-19 situation in Uttarakhand since last year’s lockdown said, “The surge in the cases again in the state is a big worry.”
Nautiyal said, “In what many experts are calling as the second wave of infections, the government have to take this seriously and make the people adhere to precautions like in last year’s lockdown especially in Rishikesh and Haridwar.”