New Delhi: Amid growing crowds at hill stations and threat of possible third COVID-19 wave looming large, the Shimla District administration on Saturday (July 17) decided to put a cap on the number of people visiting the Himachal Pradesh city. The officials have also taken a call on controlling crowds in Shimla.
The new restrictions include that no one will be allowed to sit on Shimla’s Ridge and Mall Road except senior citizens. If the number of people increases more than the capacity of these locations, entry can be banned, ANI reported.
A meeting was conducted by Aditya Negi, the Deputy Commissioner of Shimla district administration with the traders and people associated with the tourism business of the district during which these rules were decided.
“We had a meeting with the tourism stakeholders and decisions have been taken to restrict crowd in Ridge and mall road area. We will try to avoid overcrowding. Sitting will not be allowed in that area except for the senior citizens. We have been experimenting to reduce crowd and also to implement COVID-appropriate behaviour”, Negi said.
To avoid overcrowding, the administration has planned to remove sitting benches from Ridge area. “During the past two-three days, police had launched an awareness and no challan campaign to educate people on implementing guidelines and COVID protocol. Now, police is first making tourists and locals aware about wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. If they don’t understand to abide by the law in place, then challaning is being done. To reduce the crowd from ridge area, we shall first remove sitting benches and overcrowding will not be seen likely in near future”, he added.
On Saturday, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jairam Thakur said the state government wants tourists to visit but while strictly adhering to COVID-19 protocols. “Recently, a number of tourists towns including Shimla, Manali, Dharamshala saw high tourist inflow. We have ordered districts to deploy police force to regulate and monitor traffic and warn people against venturing into rivers etc during rains,” Thakur told ANI.
Further, he said that hotel associations have also been asked to implement SOPs to prevent coronavirus spread. “At places where tourists are in large numbers, enforcement of COVID protocols is being done. We have also asked hotel associations to implement SOPs for the functioning of hotels. We want tourists to visit our state but they must follow COVID protocols,” CM Jairam Thakur urged.
Meanwhile, Union Health Ministry on Thursday had raised concerns over reports of ‘blatant’ crowding at hill stations. Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote a letter to all states and Union Territories, saying non-compliance of COVID-19 protocols at this juncture can result in another surge in COVID-19 cases.
“Violations of Covid norms have been observed in various parts of the country, especially in hill stations, public transport and markets. Needless to say, such complacency at this juncture has the potential to result in another surge in cases,” PTI cited the letter as saying.
(With agency inputs)