COVID-19 a Double Whammy as Snow, Rain Paralyse Life in Himachal

Manali: Struggling with containing the spread of Covid-19 and the rising numbers of deaths, Himachal Pradesh faces a double blow due to cold conditions, particularly snowfall and wide-spread rains leaving life paralyzed and coronavirus showing no signs of any let-up.

More than a thousand cases during this month, and nearly hundreds of deaths, even in the age group of teens, the pandemic seems to be on a rip, and the healthcare infrastructure is in complete collapse. Fresh spells of snow in the high altitude areas of Lahaul-Spiti, Kinnaur, and Kullu-Manali districts are bound to aggravate the conditions while rain in the rest of the state also added up extreme cold conditions, leaving the patients in Covid care wards shivering.

At Geu village in Lahaul-Spiti, which has a population of about 100, where 28 persons tested positive during random sampling by medical teams. The village on the China border is known for its attraction because of the mummified body of a monk, dating back 550 years.

At Tholang, another village in Lahaul valley, only one person was lucky to be tested negative in a population of 43 persons. Earlier, 38 persons in another village of the district had tested positive.

Although Lahaul-Spiti district has reported nine deaths, of these six were recorded after the inauguration of the Atal Rohtang Tunnel that has opened floodgates to tourists coming to Lahaul Spiti in the winter months. The district authorities, now, have imposed a ban on the entry of the outsiders.

In grip of winter, night parties are being blamed for becoming super spreader events for COVID-19 spread in Himachal

Elsewhere in the state, the conditions are no better. Twelve more deaths have been reported during the past 24-hours and the number, say health department officials, could be higher as more test reports are awaited.

The state government’s decision to impose a night curfew in the four districts from November 24, has created a new problem for the police, the law enforcing agency. Several Manali-bound tourists who could not reach the town before 8 pm created a ruckus at the Kullu barrier, the other day. Similar incidents happened during curfew hours at the Mandi, Kullu districts.

The government’s policy about night curfew and its relevance is facing flak on social media.

The spread of the pandemic is being attributed to the permitting of large social gatherings and wedding functions, where night long parties with DJs and natis (Pahari folk dances) had many people come together in closed enclosures, turning them into super spreader functions where norms of social distancing, wearing of masks were flouted

The ruling BJP government has its share of blame in contributing to the Covid-19 flare-up by allowing unhindered mass movement of the tourists with no check at the borders, hosting big political rallies, and permitting social and religious gatherings with no limit on the numbers.

Sanjay Dutta, an engineer by qualification but is a journalist by choice. He has worked for the premier new agency Press Trust of India and leading English daily Indian Express. With more than a decade of experience, he has been highlighting issues related to environment, tourism and other aspects affecting mountain ecology. Sanjay Dutta lives in a village close to Manali in Kullu valley of Himachal.

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