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‘Make negative RTPCR certificate mandatory for travelers’: Kashmir tourism players send SOS to govt as Covid cases surge

KM/Umar Ganie

Srinagar: Amid a surge in Covid cases, tourism players have asked the government to make negative RTPCR certificate mandatory for tourists traveling to Kashmir.

The second Covid wave has gripped the valley with cases surging by nearly 60 percent in the last one month. A good number of tourists from Covid hotspots have also arrived in Kashmir.

Covid testing on arrival is worrying the tourism players since they remain in direct contact with the positive cases during their stay in Kashmir.

“The RAT reports of travelers are delayed at the airport. By the time, reports are dispatched; our staff might have already come in contact with the visitors. We want negative RTPCR reports to be produced by every visitor on his or her arrival at the airport,” said President Travel Agents Association of Kashmir Farooq Ahmad Kuthoo.

Kuthoo said the airport administration should not allow tourists to leave the premises till their reports are delivered. “This is the only way to prevent the spread of Covid-19,” he said.

President TAAK said several bookings are getting canceled due to the surge in Covid cases. “Now we receive queries about the cancellation. The situation will be worse if the government doesn’t handle it well by making negative RTPCR reports mandatory for every traveler,” he said.

On Tuesday, tourism players held a meeting with Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, officials of Srinagar airport, tourism and health department, and sought new SOPs of making negative RTPCR report mandatory.

“We conveyed to them our concerns and many states have already made it mandatory for visitors,” Kuthoo said.

Several states including Assam and Karnataka have made it mandatory for travelers to produce a negative RTCPR certificate on arrival.

The current procedure is also worrying the hoteliers who remain in constant contact with the travelers. Some of the hoteliers have to manage the quarantine of the Covid positive visitors.

“The reports reach very late. Till then our staff had already served them. It endangers the lives of other people and their families who take care of tourists. A negative RTPCR report will make our job easier,” said President Kashmir Hoteliers and Restaurant Owners Federation, Abdul Wahid Malik.

He said the government should also arrange the administrative quarantine facility for those travelers who test positive at Srinagar airport. “Our government has a huge accommodation available and it should use them for infected tourists. It becomes very difficult for us to manage the positive cases as our staff members’ fear of getting infected,” Malik said.

A tourism official said the decision can be taken by the administration. “Neither tourism department nor the district administration can take this decision. These concerns will be conveyed to the higher authorities,” he said.