The Mansehra district administration has reopened all hotels in tourist hotspots Naran, Kaghan and Shogran of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, officials said on Wednesday, three days after the properties were sealed following the emergence of several Covid-19 cases among staff.
The hotels were allowed to reopen after disinfecting their premises with chlorine spray and quarantining the staff members who tested positive for the coronavirus.
The decision to unseal the hotels was taken in view of large numbers of tourists heading to the tourist sites in the northern districts, Mansehra Additional Deputy Commissioner Maqbool Hussain told Dawn.com.
“We have reopened all the hotels across the district, including of Shogran, Naran and Kaghan, and entry of tourists has been allowed," he said.
"We also strictly instructed the hotel managements to follow the SOPs set for Covid-19, failing which legal action will be taken against them.”
Hussain said the managements of five hotels who had broken the seals placed by the district administration had been booked. The hotels, however, have been allowed to remain open.
The Covid-19 patients at the hotels had been quarantined in self-isolation, he added.
Answering a question, he said the hotel managements would provide rooms after following the entire process to make sure the guests being allowed in are not symptomatic.
Hazara division Commissioner Riaz Mehsud also confirmed that all hotels sealed after the emergence of Covid-19 cases had been reopened.
"After three days, the hotels have been allowed to open," Mehsud said, adding that the properties were "properly disinfected and checked".
He said the flow of tourists to the area was high and the administration was trying to implement SOPs to control the spread of the virus. He added that tourists were cooperating with the authorities.
According to Mehsud, large-scale testing in tourists spots had been started, with nearly 33,000 tests having been conducted in Naran and Nathia Gali. He said all staffers of hotels in the area had been tested for the virus, while random testing of tourists was also being done.
"We have also issued special instructions and SOPs for hotels," he added, urging tourists to cooperate with the administration and follow the health guidelines.
On Sunday, the Mansehra district administration had sealed all hotels in Shogran, Naran and Kaghan after 47 Covid-19 cases were reported at private hotels located in the tourist destinations.
According to officials, 48 hotels, including 22 main businesses and their respective branches, had been sealed at the three tourist spots and the infected patients had been quarantined at the hotels.
Covid-19 cases rising in KP's tourist spots
Covid-19 cases in KP's tourist spots have seen a marked increase since 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 SOPs in their respective areas, officials said.
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.
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.
However, the data showed 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.