Kolkata: As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in India reached 107 on Sunday, the tribal welfare department in Andamans, far away from the mainland, has taken precautionary measures to ensure the safety of tourists, residents and indigenous tribes.
Six tribes exist in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands — Great Andamanese, Jarawas, Onge, Shompen, Nicobarese and the Sentinelese. Since the latter do not have any contact with the outside world, they are at heightened risk of the deadly virus.
“While we work for the welfare of these tribes through various schemes throughout the year, extra precaution due to COVID-19 outbreak has been undertaken," Sanjeev Kumar Mittal, Principal Secretary, Tribal Welfare Department, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, told News18.
He further said symptomatic officials have been restricted from visiting tribal areas and other officials have been told to limit their contact with the tribes. “The administration has also reduced the number of vehicles passing through the tribal reserve areas. These measures are undertaken to limit the chances of virus to spread in the tribal community.” He also assured there is no need to panic as “the administration has taken several steps for the welfare of the local people, tribes and the tourists".
An advisory against the spread of COVID-19 issued by the Andaman and Nicobar Administration read, “To prevent the outbreak of COVID-19 in A&N Islands, all tourists are advised to refrain from travelling to the Islands from the midnight of March 16, 2020, to March 26, 2020.”
Tourism facilities, including jetties, beaches, eco-tourism sites and water sports activities, will also be suspended in the islands. “All Eco-tourism venues, jetties, boats etc. closed for tourists in Andamans from midnight of March 16-17 to March 26, to prevent crowding,” said Chetan Sanghi, Chief Secretary, Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Other major tourist sites including Cellular Jail (Light & Sound Shows), Havelock Island, Neil Islands, Baratang etc. will also remain closed till further orders.
However, only for residents of the Islands, all modes of transport including ships under the Directorate of Shipping Services (DSS), private vessels, administrative buses as well as private buses shall be operating at 50 per cent capacity. The modes of transport will also have ‘staggered seating’ to prevent close contact between passengers while travelling. The facilities will not be
Workers have also been asked to sanitise their vessels/vehicles before and after every trip.
Impact of COVID-19 on Andaman's Tourism Industry
The tourism industry in the region incurred a massive loss due to the coronavirus outbreak. Data provided by the Union Home Ministry shows the revenue generation in the tourism sector (including airfare) in the Andamans region is nearly Rs 100 crores every year.
Sunil Kumar Singh, Secretary Tourism, said, “Every year we see nearly five lakhs tourists, but the numbers fell drastically this time because of the pandemic,” adding that initiative was taken to ensure the safety of the tourists. “There is nothing to panic as not a single case reported so far in this Island,” he said.