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Revenge tourism to  trigger  3rd  wave, cautions ICMR

Popular tourist destinations such as Himachal Pradesh and Assam are currently seeing an upsurge of visitors from elsewhere in the country, th. (ANI Photo)Premium
Popular tourist destinations such as Himachal Pradesh and Assam are currently seeing an upsurge of visitors from elsewhere in the country, th. (ANI Photo)

After taking mathematical models into account that chart the course of pandemic in future, the ICMR warned that a sudden increase in population density due to incoming tourists or mass congregation  can worsen the third-wave scenario

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NEW DELHI : The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has recommended tourism destinations such as Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and the North-East strictly enforce pandemic protocols and seek vaccination certificates and covid-19 negative tests from visitors before allowing entry.

The apex biomedical research body warned that the pandemic’s third wave could see cases surge by as much as 47% because of increasing leisure travel during the festive season and could even occur two weeks earlier than the previously estimated November peak.

ICMR noted the impact on smaller states was less intense during the pandemic’s second wave. Among the ‘smaller states’ are popular tourist destinations such as Himachal Pradesh and Assam that are currently seeing a surge in visitors from across the country, the ICMR said.

Although India doesn’t have national-level guidelines on domestic travel during covid, ICMR said it may be helpful for tourism-dependent states to receive guidance on how best they can mitigate travel-related risks.

“These observations indicate increasing opportunities for transmission in areas where population-level immunity has not yet accumulated to the levels as elsewhere in the country. Against the backdrop of increasing anticipation of the third wave in India, it is important to recognize the potential risks associated with such an escalation in travel," it said.

After considering mathematical models to ascertain the future course of the pandemic, ICMR warned that a sudden increase in population density due to incoming tourists or mass congregation because of either social, political or religious reasons can worsen the third-wave scenario.

Making it necessary for tourist destination states to demand covid-19 negative tests or vaccination certificates, ICMR said vaccine status could also play an important role in eligibility to travel, with some caveats.

The recommendations prepared by Dr Balram Bhargava, director general, ICMR, and Dr Samiran Panda, head, epidemiology and communicable diseases, ICMR, were also published in the International Journal of Travel Medicine published by Oxford University Press.

ICMR has recommended that people choose responsible travel instead of revenge travel.

“First, vaccine passports have limitations, arising from uncertainties about how the nature and strength of vaccine-induced immunity would change over time. Second, despite being the world’s largest producer of covid-19 vaccines, India also faces the challenge of having the world’s second-largest population to vaccinate. It is estimated that roughly 20% of India’s eligible population has been fully vaccinated," ICMR said. More than 910 million covid vaccines have been administered so far.

Meanwhile, at least 20,799 new coronavirus cases were reported in the past 24 hours. The active caseload is presently at 264,458, the lowest in 200 days. According to Union health ministry, the daily positivity rate is 2.1%, staying below 3% for the past 35 days and below 5% for 118 consecutive days.

ICMR scientists said it will be crucial to maintain surveillance in at-risk settings, ensuring that testing is maintained even in periods of apparent low infection activity. In addition, information on genomic surveillance in other countries and vigil at international airports will be valuable for early identification of hitherto unrecognized variants that could gain a foothold across the country, it added.

“There are undoubtedly important benefits as society gradually returns to normal, in India and elsewhere; domestic travel to holiday destinations provides benefits not just for visitors, but also for local economies that have been under considerable stress for over a year," according to ICMR.

“Nonetheless, with the possibility of a severe third wave in India still looming, it remains critical to recognize and mitigate the risks involved. A shared sense of responsibility among visitors, residents and local authorities will go a long way towards protecting the welfare of the country as a whole," the agency said.

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