Kashmir to test all visitors, tourism industry takes a hit



With an increasing number of travelers and tourists coming to the valley testing positive for Covid-19, the health ministry said it has established a testing center in Lower Munda for those coming to Kashmir by road.

Announcing this, Kashmir Health Director Dr Mushtaq Ahmad Rather told Outlook the emphasis was on vaccination and testing, and that “travelers entering Kashmir whether by road or by aircraft are tested ”.

Covid-19 cases in Jammu and Kashmir continue to rise, with 1,145 new positive cases reported on Saturday, 503 from Jammu and 642 from Kashmir. With this, active cases in Jammu and Kashmir have reached 10,910. Three deaths have been reported in the region, two from Jammu and one from the Kashmir valley.

Incidentally, last week 717 travelers tested positive after being tested at Srinagar Airport, and the iconic Ahdoos Hotel on Residency Road in Lal Chowk closed after several of its employees tested positive. The hotel, established in 1918 and famous for its Kashmiri Wazwan (traditional seven-course Kashmiri cuisine), has remained a favorite haunt of journalists visiting Kashmir since 1990.

According to hotel management, they were informed by health authorities that some guests who had stayed at the hotel tested positive for RT-PCR infection at Srinagar airport. The hotel management then tested their staff and some tested positive. Staff were quarantined at home and the hotel was closed.

The surge in infections has hit the tourism industry as tour operators witness cancellations of advance reservations. “We had a good tourist season until March. But after the second wave of Covid-19, there is a sharp drop in tourism and massive cancellations of reservations, ”says Wahid Malik, president of the Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Owners Association. He says the government should only allow tourists who have taken the PSTN test before embarking on their trip, and if another PSTN is performed at the airport, it would go a long way in securing everyone’s life.

Houseboat owners also claim that early bookings for the summer season are being canceled. They say more than 80% of the barges are empty now and no new reservations seem likely amid the raging second wave of Covid-19.

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