By ARUN PRATAP SINGH
DEHRADUN, 26 Mar: So far, there are five confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Uttarakhand and all of these are those who seem to have contacted the infection while they were abroad. Among them are 3 IFS trainee officers, who had returned from a trip to Europe. One is a Spanish national, who seems to have contacted the infection while in the US. The latest case is of an Indian youth from Kotdwar, who was in Spain for a few weeks. This indicates that, so far, Uttarakhand is still in stage one of the infection, having only those who contracted the virus while they were abroad. Apparently, they have not transmitted the infection to any local person without any foreign travel history. However, there are reasons for possible problems in the future. As we all know, Uttarakhand has a large number of natives who are non-resident, meaning that they live outside the state or even outside the country for work. There are reports that a large number of Uttarakhandis who work elsewhere have returned to their native places in Uttarakhand including in the hills. Most of them have not undergone any quarantine or self isolation process. So, the possibility of some of them having contacted the infection can’t be negated and, if that is really the case, there is a possibility of locals contacting the infection from them as Corona is highly contagious. As per reports, in some cases, the Gram Pradhans and neighbours have reported the return of the ‘Pravasi Uttarakhandis’ and efforts have been made by the administration to contact these persons and screen them. However, not all cases have been reported. If a significant number of these persons manage to evade medical tests and quarantine, it is highly possible that Uttarakhand may get pushed into stage 2 in which locals start getting infected by outsiders. Hence, the government needs to take the matter very seriously and start a thorough investigation and information gathering in this regard. The local intelligence of the state police departments needs to work overtime to locate such persons. Secondly, Uttarakhand is frequented by foreigners and Indian citizens from across the country and even abroad because of the abundant natural beauty, pristine climate and spiritual and religious reasons. The local intelligence and the Police need to be extra vigilant about foreigners currently staying in the state, whether in Rishikesh, Haridwar, Uttarkashi, Mussoorie, Nainital or elsewhere and keep them under observation. Some reports even suggest that a group of 50 Italians staying in Rishikesh has suddenly gone missing. However, speaking to Garhwal Post, CO, Narendra Nagar, Pramod Shah claimed that when the international flights had been cancelled to and from India, there were about 400 foreigners staying in Muni Ki Reti and around. They belonged to many nationalities and were not just Italians. However, most of them were able to contact their embassies in New Delhi, which had called them to New Delhi. As a result, many of the foreigners have checked out of their hotels in the past week. Because, at present, no transportation is available even for Delhi, therefore about 150 foreigners are still staying in Muni Ki Reti area, some of them in hotels and some in various Ashrams.