Manali is flooded with tourists despite COVID-19 third wave concerns
Each year, north Indians tend to flock to hill stations in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand during peak summer. However, in a year when the country went through the world's worst coronavirus outbreak, a different scenario was expected, but that couldn't be. People have thronged Manali and other hill towns even as concerns over a third wave of COVID-19 are growing.
Himachal Pradesh government has eased curbs over COVID-19
Today, Manali dominated trends on social media for all the wrong reasons. People shared pictures of heavily crowded streets in the city as tourists were seen blatantly ignoring social distancing norms. Similar crowds were also seen in Shimla, Kufri, Narkanda, Dalhousie, and Lahaul. Notably, Himachal Pradesh government no longer requires visitors to carry a negative RT-PCR report or e-COVID pass to enter the state.
Hotel occupancy increased manifold in recent days
In fact, the occupancy in hotels has increased manifold in the past few days. "The occupancy in the hotels remains between 60 and 90 percent during weekends, while on other days it remains around 40-45 percent," said Mohinder Seth, the President of Tourism Industry Stakeholder Association. In the neighboring state of Uttarakhand, tourists have rushed to Mussoorie near capital Dehradun.
Here is a recent picture from Manali
India's dreadful second wave of COVID-19
The severe laxity comes even though India had faced a dreadful second wave of COVID-19 earlier this year. Daily cases in India had peaked at 4,14,000 in May. Amid rising cases, India's healthcare system had crumpled as states reported an acute shortage of hospital beds, ambulances, medical oxygen, and medicines. Relatives of coronavirus patients ran from pillar to post to secure these basic necessities.
Reports say third wave would hit India soon
Experts have said a third wave of COVID-19 would hit India soon, with its timeline and severity depending on how well we follow the protocols. A recent report by SBI Research states the new wave would strike as early as next month and peak in September. The report notes that daily cases at third wave's peak could be 1.7 times that of second wave.