Himachal opens borders

Decision in line with Centre’s unlocking policy

Himachal opens borders

File photo

The mixed reaction in Himachal Pradesh to the decision to do away with restrictions on entry to the hill state, in place since the pandemic-induced nationwide lockdown in March-end, would not have come as a surprise for the Thakur government. No pass or registration is now required. Tourists can enter freely without the need of carrying a negative Covid report, or having five days’ hotel booking. The severe blow to the tourism-dependent economy demanded action, even if seen as unpopular in some quarters. An isolationist approach had run its course. Keeping the borders closed in perpetuity, along with strict curbs on movement, was not a viable or feasible option.

The Chief Minister’s announcement that the decision is in line with the Centre’s appeal for unlocking, even though the number of Covid cases has crossed 10,000, is a candid admission that Himachal can no longer sustain itself with a closed-door policy. The economy has to get back on track and livelihoods have to be created. While reassuring the people about the arrangements and preparedness to deal with the virus cases, he also brought attention to the state’s low fatality rate of 0.8 per cent, as compared to the national figure of 1.64 per cent, and even higher in neighbouring Punjab.

Opening or keeping shutters down on hotels, resorts, eateries and tourist sites is best left to individual choice — or, if a panchayat or a civic body so wishes, that of a village or a town — but applying brakes on trade and business cannot be the state policy. That distinction has been made clear, and rightly so. However, the government should remain mindful of the apprehensions about a huge surge in coronavirus cases and tread carefully. Unrestricted entry is fine, but Himachal has to guard against any softening of the stand on taking precautions. Standard safety guidelines for tourists and those coming home would be in their interest, and those of the hosts.

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