Mussoorie: The discovery of a new Coronavirus variant named by the World Health Organisation (WHO) panel as “Omicron” has sent the chill across the world with nations rushing to stall it’s spread by curtailing air travel. Scientists have termed it as a highly transmissible virus of concern, the same category that includes the delta variant.
The new ‘Omicron’ virus could pose greater risks than delta, which is the world’s most prevalent variant and has fueled relentless waves of infection on every continent and this revelation has instilled fear among the business community dependent on tourism in India and especially the hill state Uttarakhand.
In wake of the appearance of the new covid variant, the Uttarakhand government to control the spread of the pandemic has directed authorities to test and isolate people returning from African countries.
Earlier in the day, the Uttarakhand Health Secretary Dr Pankaj Kumar Pandey has instructed all state officials to monitor the people coming from outside along with intensive testing as a precautionary measure against the Covid-19 variant ‘Omicron’.
The ‘Omicron’ (B.1.1.529), a new variant of the coronavirus, was first reported in Botswana on November 11, 2021, and appeared on November 14 in South Africa.
The countries namely United States, Canada joined the European Union and several other countries have already instituted travel restrictions on visitors from southern Africa, where the variant brought on a fresh surge of infections and is thought to have originated. The Indian government has also called for resumption of Air travel in wake of the new findings coming to light.
With the return of the fear factor of lockdown one which was imposed nearly two years ago, the Hospitality Industry that was limping back to normalcy is a fearful lot.
Chandra Khanduri a hotelier in Mussoorie said, “The town is predominantly dependent on tourism and from past two years due to lockdown and re-emergence of pandemic during ‘Kumbh’ we have suffered financially and if the restriction return once again it will act as a nail in the coffin of the industry which is already down on its knees.”
The hotel industry was at the receiving end with no tourists able to enter the town during the peak of the pandemic and lockdown. Off late, the inflow of tourists was on the rise at all the hill stations be it Mussoorie, Nainital or the remote Jungle resorts in the state providing much needed employment to the state.
Sunder Singh Panwar the state president of the Uttarakhand Taxi, Maxi Mahasangh said the emergence of the new variant of the virus has instilled fear among the taxi owners who are still struggling to repay their vehicle loans.
“If the third lockdown is imposed it will break the backbone of people dependent on tourism and increase the misery of people manifold,” said Sundar Panwar.
Vijay Chand, another hotelier said that the RTCPR test for the tourists should be conducted at the borders of the state and once in the tourists should not be harassed at every checkpoint of each town.
“The number of the tests should be increased in the state on daily basis and adequate measures should be taken to curb its spread around,” he added.
Meanwhile, the state government health department has issued the instructions where all districts officials have been directed to put any passenger coming from outside showing signs of infection be tested, and later put under 14-day quarantine if tested positive. The COVID testing would also be conducted at the COVID testing to be conducted at various border entry points”, said the notification issued by DG-Health Uttarakhand.
Sanjay Agarwal the secretary of Mussoorie Hotel Association said, “ The experts believe that this is a highly risky variant of the virus, so we have already begun taking the precaution and have directed the member hotels to adhere to the Covid protocols as been followed from past two years”.
The tourism industry members are hoping that the crisis is well managed this time around as it could escalate to an enormous proportion due to the highly risky variant that has emerged in Africa.