Worries ahead for authorities as Srinagar-the summer capital of the Union Territory (UT) of J&K, is emerging as a hotspot, amid an influx of a huge number of tourists, this year.
After losing two successive tourist seasons, a ray of hope was rekindled among people associated with the tourism sector because a huge flow of tourists was witnessed in the first three months of this year but the recent surge in the corona positive cases, once again, created fear among them.
"During the last three days we have cancelled over a dozen package tours to Valley because once again panic gripped tourists coming from different parts of the country", Ashwani Sharma, a tourist agent, told International Business Times, adding, "During the last three months we have witnessed huge flow of tourists to Kashmir Valley but during the last couple of days people are asking for the cancellations of bookings."
Srinagar a COVID hotspot?
While Srinagar has emerged as a hotspot of the deadly virus, the death of two tourists due to COVID-19 has further compounded the woes of the authorities.
On late Sunday evening, a 60-year-old tourist from Gujarat died due to Covid-19 at a hospital at Srinagar.
Official sources said that the deceased was admitted to the hospital on April 2, after testing positive. The tourist was suffering from 'severe covid-19 Pneumonia' and died on Sunday evening.
On March 31, a tourist who was tested negative for Covid-19 at Srinagar airport on his arrival to Valley, died after testing positive within two days.
Authorities are in a dilemma after a surge of cases because on the one hand there is a dire need of reviving the tourist sector-the back of J&K's economy, on the other hand the trajectory of Corona positive cases' graph is showing a rising trend.
With an aim to attract more and more tourists, Asia's largest tulip garden was thrown open on March 25 in Srinagar. On the first day, over 4,000 visitors visited the garden.
Among 20 districts of J&K, Srinagar is witnessing an unprecedented hike in coronavirus cases as it alone contributes over 36 percent of total active positive cases in J&K.
In view of the rising trend of Covid cases, authorities were forced to close schools for two weeks but allowing people to visit gardens has raised many questions.
"Shutting schools up to class 9 in Kashmir for a couple of weeks is the right thing to do but the contrast with the hands-off approach to the crowds of visitors at the tulip garden is too stark to be ignored. A well-considered uniform strategy is needed for the 2nd wave of COVID", former chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted.
Meanwhile, amid a spike in Covid positive cases, the Director Health Services Kashmir has cancelled leave granted or under consideration to doctors, nurses, paramedical staff and other officials, except maternity or that taken in view of extreme medical exigencies.
"It is enjoined upon all the Chief Medical Officers/Medical Superintendents and other Territorial Offices falling within the jurisdiction of this Directorate that amid an upsurge of the covid-19 pandemic, all the leaves either sanctioned or under consideration at Directorate level or at respective offices of CMOs and other DDOs in respect of doctors, nurses, paramedical staff and other officials of this Department are hereby cancelled forthwith except Maternity Leave and Leave taken in view of extreme medical exigencies," circular issued by Director this morning, reads.
Furthermore, all the Chief Medical Officers/Medical Superintendents and other Territorial Offices were directed to refrain from forwarding any kind of leave to this Directorate till further orders.