Himachal Pradesh has ended the e-pass and registration process and allowed free inter-state travel. The announcement was made by the government on 15 Sept, however inter-state transport buses remain banned. Thus, currently, Himachal residents as well as tourists can enter or exit without an e-pass or registration.
The decision was taken by the Cabinet at its meeting chaired by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur. However, given the sharp increase in COVID cases and related fatality, it has been decided not to resume inter-state public transport.
Though it’s a relief for the tourism sector, public opinion was in favour of extending the COVID-19 restrictions. The decision of allowing inter-state travel comes on the day when the state recorded eight new deaths taking the Coronavirus death toll to 89, and taking the overall positive number to 10,336 with 419 fresh cases.
The Chief Minister said though the number of COVID cases had crossed 10,000, the decision was in line with the Centre’s directions for unlock and revival of economic activities.
Thakur said,” tourists could now enter the state freely and they would not be required to carry a negative COVID report. The condition of five-day mandatory hotel booking had also been done away with, he said. This has to been done so that the tourism industry, hit badly by the COVID pandemic, could revive.”
Till now, registration with the Deputy Commissioner concerned was mandatory to facilitate contact tracing in case anyone tested positive. He insisted there was need to adopt greater precaution as the spread was much higher now. “We will also adopt new COVID guidelines where a hospitalised positive person will be discharged after seven days if he tests negative,” he said. Thakur also mentioned there will be fewer quarantine centres and primarily in industrial areas where migrant workers came in large numbers. There will be no quarantine for anyone coming from outside the state.
The CM said though the hospitals were fully geared up to take care of COVID patients, the asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic ones would be kept under home quarantine, and not hospitalised.
Himachal Pradesh had shut down its border to outsiders five months back. In August, the state decided to relax the lockdown norms for tourists and introduced the system of e-passes and registrations. It allowed tourist entry with COVID-19 negative test reports to revive the state’s tourism industry as it is the biggest profit-making sector of the gorgeous hill state.
Himachal Pradesh is one of the most frequented hill states in the country, visited by a huge number of national and international tourists every year. A major part of the state’s economy depends on tourism, thus bringing back tourists is a priority for now.