Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday called out mask-less tourists flocking to hill stations in huge numbers and those crowding markets, saying the third wave of coronavirus would hit the country “when we invite it”.
PM Modi, who was meeting chief ministers of the Northeast states amid concerns of rising Covid-19 cases, said: “It is true that tourism and business have been greatly affected due to coronavirus. But today, I will say very emphatically, that it is not okay to have huge crowds in hill stations, markets without wearing masks.”
The prime minister added that “this is not the time to enjoy” as he warned against mutating variant of the virus which has wreaked havoc across the globe.
The statement comes amid countless pictures and videos of tourists enjoying at hill stations such as Manali, Nainital — most without masks and not following social distancing — after the Himachal Pradesh government last month announced Covid-19 relaxations. The pictures sparked fears of an imminent third wave in the country which battled a brutal second wave that left several dead and many gasping for facilities such as oxygen supply and hospital beds.
PM Modi reportedly told the first meet of his new team of ministers that the sight of crowds should instil “a sense of fear” in people given that the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic is far from over. The need for vigilance was echoed by the latest Covid report from the Union Health Ministry, which noted that the country had seen the count of active cases jump slightly after being on downward slope for nearly 55 days.
The Union Health Ministry on July 8 said that, after clocking a consistent decline, the count of active cases in India increased for the first time in 55 days. At the meeting with his new ministerial colleagues, the PM is said to have noted with worry the rise of cases in Kerala and Maharashtra.
Experts have also flagged the Char Dham Yatra and the Kanwar Yatra as possible “superspreaders”. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) on Monday urged the central and state governments to not allow any kind of mass gatherings or festival celebrations in the wake of probable third wave of coronavirus.
IMA President Dr JA Jayalal appealed the Centre to reconsider its decision of relaxing restrictions. “Holding any festival is not advisable as it can be dangerous. IMA requests the government to reconsider their decision regarding any kind of mass gatherings," IMA president, Dr JA Jayalal told news agency ANI.
“With the global evidence available and the history of any pandemics, the third wave is inevitable and imminent. However, it is painful to note that in many parts of the country, both the government and public are complacent and engaged in mass gatherings without following Covid protocols," the medical association said in an press released on Monday.
“Tourist bonanza, pilgrimage travel, religious fervour all are needed, but can wait for few more months. Opening up these rituals and enabling people without vaccination to go scot-free in these mass gatherings are potential super spreaders for the Covid third wave," it said.