J&K: Covid-19 test mandatory for all outsiders as authorities resume tourism in phased manner

All tourists visiting Jammu and Kashmir for a holiday will have to undergo mandatory tests for the coronavirus, according to the guidelines issued by the government. This came as the Jammu and Kashmir administration on Tuesday opened the Union Territory to visitors once again but in a phased manner.

The decision to resume tourism in Jammu and Kashmir came as paramilitary forces unspooled concertina wiring across Srinagar’s streets once again and set up barricades after the administration ordered alockdown in 68 containments areas of the city. The lockdown, which came into effect on Monday, was imposed in view of the recent surge in the coronavirus cases, Srinagar District Magistrate Shahid Iqbal Choudhary had said.

The tourism sector is the backbone of Jammu and Kashmir’s economy and was the worst-affected by the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent countrywide lockdown in March. On July 8, the government opened gardens and parks to the public after 100 days of closure, according to Mint.

In the first phase, the tourism sector will be partially opened for visitors from outside Jammu and Kashmir and will be limited to tourists arriving by air only. In the guidelines issued on Sunday, the authorities said that RT-PCR, or the Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, testing of all tourists at the airport on arrival is mandatory.

Till the test result shows a negative result for Covid-19, a tourist will remain in the hotel where booking has been made and shall not be permitted to move out. “A form to this effect shall have to be signed at the airport,” the guidelines added. “Test results will normally arrive within 24 hours except in special circumstances. The hotel management shall be required to ensure compliance with this protocol.”

All incoming tourists must have confirmed hotel bookings for the duration of their stay. All incoming tourists must also have confirmed return air tickets to any place outside Jammu and Kashmir, the guidelines said. Those found violating the order will be penalised under the Disaster Management Act, 2005. The administration also advised tourists above the age of 65 years to avoid making travel plans to the Union Territory.

On Sunday, Choudhary had said that ever since the lockdown was lifted in Srinagar, there had been a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases and deaths in the city, ANI reported. “Today [Sunday], there are 1,611 positive cases, including 1,100 active cases,” he added. “We have increased fine for not wearing a mask to Rs 1,000 from Rs 500.”

Jammu and Kashmir has reported 1,0827 cases of the coronavirus, including 187 deaths, so far, according to the figures by the Union Health Ministry. Meanwhile, India on Tuesday recorded 28,498 new coronavirus cases, taking the total to 9,06,752. The toll rose by 553 to 23,727. More than 5.71 lakh people have recovered.