All hotels in tourist hotspots Naran, Kaghan and Shogran sealed after staff test positive for Covid-19

23 Aug 2020

Email

Mansehra Additional Deputy Commissioner Maqbool Hussain did not specify for how long the hotels would remain closed. — AP/File
Mansehra Additional Deputy Commissioner Maqbool Hussain did not specify for how long the hotels would remain closed. — AP/File

The Mansehra district administration on Sunday sealed all hotels in tourist hotspots Shogran, Naran and Kaghan after several Covid-19 cases were reported among staff working at different hotels.

Speaking to Dawn.com, Mansehra Additional Deputy Commissioner Maqbool Hussain said that the district health department had reported 47 Covid-19 cases at private hotels located in these spots.

Following this, it was decided to close down all hotels to curb the spread of the virus, he said. He said 48 hotels, including 22 main businesses and their respective branches, had been sealed at all three tourist spots and the infected patients had been quarantined at the hotels.

He added that arrangements had been made for patients to be quarantined at the hotels by the local health department and officials were in the process of tracing and testing those who had come into contact with the patients.

Hussain did not specify for how long the hotels would remain closed but said that they would not be allowed to open till the situation was brought under control.

KDA recommends imposing 'smart lockdown'

Meanwhile, the Kaghan Development Authority (KDA) on Sunday wrote a letter to the Mansehra deputy commissioner, recommending to impose a 'smart lockdown' at five hotels and restaurants in Naran after staff tested positive for Covid-19.

A day earlier, the authority had sealed the businesses after workers had tested positive for the coronavirus. “Many employees tested positive for the infection, leading to the sealing of the hotels,” KDA Deputy Director Mazhar Hussain told reporters on Saturday.

However, in a letter dated today, the KDA director general said that the hotels and restaurants had reopened their businesses, despite being sealed, which may lead the spread of the virus. "The KDA authorised officer lodged a complaint at Police Post Naran for lodging FIRs but action is yet to be taken."

The letter added that if the businesses were allowed to operate unchecked, the virus may be transmitted to tourists who would carry it back to their native cities.

"It is proposed that a 'smart lockdown' [be imposed] on the hotels/restaurants to avoid the spread of Covid-19," it said.

The hotels and restaurants were identified as Moon Restaurant, Pak Punjab Tikka House, Dewan-e-Khaas Restaurant, Cecil Hotel, and Mianmore Hotel, Naran.

Covid-19 cases rising in KP's tourist spots

Covid-19 cases in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's tourist spots have seen a marked increase after the government lifted countrywide restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the virus. This has forced local authorities to start large-scale random testing of tourists.

The administrations of Hazara and Malakand divisions have launched a large-scale operation to ensure the implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) in their respective areas, officials told Dawn.com.

According to the KP health department's official data, there has been a rise in Covid-19 cases in eight districts of Hazara division after tourist spots were reopened.

An official puts up a Covid-19 notice in Abbottabad. — Photo courtesy Abbottabad DC Office
An official puts up a Covid-19 notice in Abbottabad. — Photo courtesy Abbottabad DC Office

A total of 372 new cases were reported from Haraza division in the 12 days after reopening for tourism, as compared to 137 cases during the 12 days before restrictions were eased.

The data also shows a decline in cases in Malakand division despite an influx of tourists; approximately 627,000 tourists entered Hazara and Malakand divisions after the government lifted Covid-19 restrictions, a report by the KP tourism department said.

"Tourists’ inflow to Abbottabad and Galiyat was high as compared to other areas as more than 356,000 entered the areas in the first 12 days,” the report read. According to the health department's daily situation report, new Covid-19 cases in the two areas have increased.

'Govt ensuring implementation of SOPs'

Meanwhile, officials said the government is taking concrete steps to curb the transmission of the virus by ensuring the implementation of SOPs.

“We have started conducting random testing of both tourists and hotel workers,” Raza Ali Habib, director general of the Galiyat development Authority (GDA), told Dawn.com.

He stated that during the last one week, 1,000 tourists were tested. Out of these, 25 had tested positive for Covid-19, he said, adding that the situation was not alarming.

Citizens wear face masks in Abbottabad. — Photo courtesy Abbottabad DC Office
Citizens wear face masks in Abbottabad. — Photo courtesy Abbottabad DC Office

Habib said that the GDA had closed a number of hotels and restaurants after staff had tested positive for the virus.

"We closed 10 hotel and restaurants in Kaghan after workers tested positive and asked the tourists to shift to other hotels to stop the spread of the virus," said Muhammad Asif, director general of the KDA.

Both the officials said that the administrations of their respective areas had made arrangements for conducting random testing of tourists at main entry points.

Abbottabad Deputy Commissioner Muhammad Maghis Sanaullah called the arrangements satisfactory, adding that the situation in the district was under control.

"As in other parts of the country, Covid-19 cases are declining [in the district]," he said, adding that the administration had started conducting random Covid-19 testing across the district, with a special focus on tourist spots.

"Our lab's testing capacity is 500 tests and we are conducting 500 tests daily," he said, adding that officials were working on ensuring the implementation of SOPs.

"We are busy day and night to ensure the implementation of SOPs and the sharp decline in cases shows that our efforts are working."

The official appealed to tourists to follow SOPs for curbing the spread of the virus and to cooperate with the government.