Tourists from Punjab, Delhi, Haryana reach Shimla; chaos at state border

Majority of the tourists were asked to go back

border-shimla It was only when local authorities started registering FIRs that the tourists retreated | Aayush Goel

The Himachal Pradesh government's decision to relax e-pass norms for tourists and natives entering the state has led to chaos in the state capital Shimla.

The entry of tourists in Himachal Pradesh was banned in March to check spread of novel coronavirus.

Hundreds of people queued up at the Shimla border check point near Shoghi. As a majority of these had no valid documents, the district authorities turned many away while home quarantining local residents returning from other states.

According to officials, despite clear instructions mandating COVID-19 negative certificate or reports of tests conducted not later than 72 hours and pre-booking of hotels for at least five days, majority of the tourists had none of these. When asked to go back, many disobeyed social distancing regulations and got into heated arguments with cops and district administration officials.

It was only when local authorities started registering FIRs that the tourists retreated.

The local residents, meanwhile, are up against the decision to allow tourists to Himachal and have warned of aggressive protests.

"Haryana, Punjab and Delhi have high COVID-19 numbers and letting people in from there will put us all at risk. We will not allow tourists here and will seal our city ourselves, " said Suresh Kashyap, a local activist.

The hoteliers too have communicated their apprehension about opening up. "We are just getting one or two bookings, and that too without COVID negative certificate. We cannot afford to pay staff, run facility or kitchens and be at risk of COVID. We cannot open," said Kullu Hotel association.

The tourism department had, on Saturday, issued a standard operating procedure (SOP) with which the tourists are allowed to enter Himachal with conditions such as a report by an ICMR-accredited laboratory not earlier than 72 hours, testing negative for COVID-19 and a prior hotel booking of at least five days.

Such tourists will also have to register online with the state government before entering the state, the state tourism director Yunus Khan had said.

(With PTI inputs)