Himanta Biswa Sarma, Health Minister of Assam recently announced quarantine rules for air passengers coming to the state. The compulsory One Day Quarantine Rule and Test of even those passengers who have earlier negative test reports and symptoms has irked many. Industry organizations have unequivocally criticized this rule in an online meet conducted by the NEITA, North East India Trade Association.
The popular view in the meet was that the new rule goes against the Unlock-5 directive from the Central Govt. Therefore, it must be revoked immediately. Apparently, the concern stems from the fact that these restrictions are further detrimental to Assam’s travel and tourism industry which is already reeling with the effects of the COVID-19 induced lockdown.
The lockdown made a huge impact on the tourism industry in Assam and the state is said to be among the hardest hit states in India. The one-day quarantine and test rule will further discourage people to travel to the state.
“The state government needs to listen to industry experts instead of making assumptions. We need all the help we can get and this is no way to do that. What is the use for isolating and testing someone who has already done it and then come to Assam on an airplane? Air passengers already go through so strict checks and protocols, why burden them more and make them feel unwanted and therefore, less willing to travel?,” said a visibly agitated Alok Gogoi, who is a lifetime member of Restaurants & Hotels Association of Assam (RHAA).
As per government’s official estimates, the state tourism industry has suffered a loss of revenue to the tune of 500 crore rupees. The travel and tour agencies in the state are said to have suffered a loss of almost 100 crores. It is also estimated that more than 1 million people in Assam are engaged directly or indirectly with the state’s tourism industry. The widespread and sustained loss has already cost thousands their jobs in the state.
“The whole tourism value chain in Assam including all kinds of hotels and resorts, bars and restaurants, travel agencies and tour operators, roadside eateries, dhabas and fast food joints have all been majorly hit as they are directly or indirectly associated with Assam’s tourism industry,” said Sushibrat Kalita, a restaurant owner from Guwahati, who was representing the All Assam Restaurants Association (AARA).
It remains to be seen if the state government will take a sympathetic view on the genuine concern raised by the industry people and roll back the said directive.