Many popular tourist haunts like Chowrastha wore an empty look with several tourists heading back home following a decision taken by the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) yesterday to bar entry of tourists in the Hills of Darjeeling and Kalimpong till 15 April in view of the coronavirus spread.

The GTA had also asked all tourists who were already in areas under the GTA to leave as soon as they can. A notice has also been issued by the office the District Magistrate, which states that tourists will be restricted in GTA areas in Darjeeling District from 19 March till 15 April to contain the spread of Covid-19. While some tourists were seen booking air and train tickets to go back, some said they will be returning in their prescheduled dates. A tourist from Burdwan, Chaitali Sen, said, “We had plans to go to places like Sandakhpu for trekking, among many other destinations, but we could not do that and we feel bad about it. The hotel that we are staying in has also asked us to go back. We had pre-booked tickets for 24 March, but we are now trying to manage tickets for an earlier date.”

Another tourist from Kolkata, Shankar Acharya, said, “It is a problem that we have to return all of a sudden, but we have ticket reservations for train this Saturday and we will leave on that date.” The forest department has already closed down tourist spots like Sandakhpu and Tiger Hill, along with other spots like the Padmaji Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and Batasia Loop. The GTA Tourism department has also closed down tourist spots under it like the Rock Garden, Gangamaya Park and Shruberry Park.

DM notice

On the other hand, the notice issued by the DM, apart from announcing the restrictions on tourists here, has also asked clubs or institutions in the district to refrain from holding any event, which requires large gathering of people, and maintain social distancing aimed at containment and management of the spread of COVID-19.

The notice further states that any resident of the district with a history of travel in the last 16 days to a country or area affected by COVID-19, must report to the nearest government hospital or call at 1800 313 444 222 / 033 2341 2600 for action from the Health & Family Welfare Department. It also says that even though such persons may not have symptoms of cough, fever or difficulty in breathing, they should quarantine themselves at home or as advised by health professionals.

It further adds that such persons must avoid contact with any person, including family members, for 14 days from the date of arrival from such country or area. GTA Chairman Anit Thapa today visited different screening camps to see if proper screening was being done, while the Darjeeling Police also sprinkled bleaching powder at different places here.

Stay indoors, appeals Tamang

In a statement, Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha leader Binoy Tamang said that all their party programmes had been suspended until 15 April. He also requested other political parties to do the same in view of the coronavirus, while also appealing to the people to try and stay at home as much as possible and avoid crowded areas. “For the next 14 days, I will personally visit people working in the tea gardens and spread this awareness so they too understand the seriousness of this disease and take necessary precautions which will be provided to them by GTA authorities,” said Mr Tamang. He added that a 24- hour helpline number has also been formed to reply to public queries and answer distress calls.