It is a matter of grave concern that the norms for Covid containment are being given the go-by by tourists thronging Shimla for Christmas and New Year festivities. The pandemic and the lockdown hurt the tourism sector in Himachal Pradesh and the sight of visitors coming back indicates good tidings, but equally important is adherence to safety protocols to prevent the virus from turning into a killjoy. While not wearing a face mask does invite penalty, the offenders’ recklessness creates apprehensions among other visitors and local residents. At the Atal Tunnel inaugurated recently by the Prime Minister, tourists even broke into a jig on a thick blanket of snow, bringing traffic to a halt and compelling the police to take action for violation of traffic rules.
Himachal Pradesh had been among the states that had strictly banned the entry of outsiders after the coronavirus outbreak. Long after, residents of other states were still required to get entry permits for making a visit. The prolonged restrictions led to an exodus of the workforce from industrial units in Baddi. Relaxation in night curfew and permission to open shops on holidays have played a part in the tourist surge of late, but the danger of virus transmission is still there with Covid cases not having abated in the state and crowding at public places only increasing the risk.
Tourist safety had been a worry in the state even before the pandemic broke out, with little or no surveillance at mishap-prone spots. Now, it is even more important for the authorities to get their act together. The state offers facilities for adventure sports that also draw nationals of other countries. Precautionary measures have to be in place for minimising the risk factor. Traffic jams, lack of space for parking, noise pollution and landslides are the usual problems at tourist places, accentuated by lack of proper road connectivity. Any laxity in enforcing the rules for warding off the virus will only add to the visitors’ woes.