ITS SPREADING FAST
COVID 19 is spreading really fast across the globe. On the 23rd of January, China’s Wuhan had 444 confirmed COVID-19 cases. A week later, by the 30th of January, it had 4,903 cases. Another week later, by the 6th of February, it had 22,112.
The same story is now playing out in other countries around the world. Italy had 62 identified cases of COVID-19 on the 22nd of February. It had 888 cases by the 29th of February, and 4,636 by the 6th of March.
Countries like Spain, Iran and other many other European nations are also struggling to control the virus and declared national emergency.
HOW ANDAMAN IS AT RISK
In the recent years Andaman Islands have developed as a popular tourist destination in India. Lakhs of domestic & foreign tourists visit Andamans every year. The outbreak has struck in the mid of the tourist season and the chances of spread of the virus is maximum in crowded tourist places.
WE ARE STILL SAFE
Although no single case of virus infection has been reported in Andaman Islands but the UT Administration has taken all possible measures to protect the entry of the virus to these remote islands. Medical screening teams have been deployed in Airports and Sea Ports for stringent check of all passengers travelling to the islands. An isolation ward has been marked in the Govt. run G.B Panth hospital in Port Blair.
RESTRICTIONS ON TOURISM ACTIVITIES
In order to check the spread of the virus in the islands all tourism related activities have been suspended in the islands temporarily. In an circular dated 14 March 20, the Andaman & Nicobar Administration has advised tourists to refrain from travelling to the islands and has directed to close all tourism attractions, including the Cellular Jail. These restrictions have been implemented till 26 March 2020 but are likely to be extended till the epidemic is controlled and the global crisis comes to an end.
WHAT DOES THESE RESTRICTIONS MEAN FOR THE TOURISTS
Although tourists planning to travel to Andamans have been asked to refrain from travelling, no restrictions have been put on travelling by flights. However cruises and ferries travelling to Havelock & Neil Islands have been directed to take only islanders and that too only half of their capacity to avoid crowding.
Hence even if the tourists do travel to Andamans, they would be deprived of visiting any tourists place or enjoying any water activity. Thus it makes no sense for tourists to visit these islands till the time these restrictions are in place.
CANCELLATIONS AND REFUNDS FOR ALL THOSE WHO HAVE ALREADY BOOKED THEIR TOUR
Many tourists who have already booked their tour with travel agents are in a state of panic for their refunds. Since the decision was sudden, it is bound to take some time for settlement of the refund process and there is no reason to worry.
Andaman Association of Tour Operators, which is the biggest association of tourism stake holders in A&N Islands is in talks with the hoteliers, cruise operators and UT Administration in order to fetch full refund for the cancellations. A positive result in this regard is expected soon. Many airlines have already announced free cancellations for the air tickets.
IMPACT OF THE RESTRICTIONS ON THE TOURISM STAKEHOLDERS
A&N Islands largely depends on tourism for employment and its economic growth. Majority of its population are engaged in tourism related activities. Closing of tourism in these islands is a big shock to all those actively involved in the trade, thousands of youths in these islands have been rendered jobless. Andaman administration is aware of the situation and tourism activities will definitely be resumed as soon as this crisis comes to an end.