The Sikkim government threw open doors for tourists from Monday, but made the entry conditional by letting in only fully vaccinated people and making a negative RT-PCR report mandatory for each tourist.
Many tourism-dependent states such as Rajasthan, Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Odisha and the Union territory of Chandigarh have come up with similar announcements.
On Sunday, Sikkim home department came up with a notification in this regard. “The entry of all persons, including tourists, who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, shall be allowed from Melli and Rangpo check-posts without RT-PCR negative report on production of valid vaccination documents. For all others, existing restrictions will continue to apply,” it read.
Sources in the state government said policemen and health officials would be posted in both these entry points to conduct a thorough screening of everyone entering the state. “Monitoring will be done in Melli and Rangpo and in some other less popular routes that connect Sikkim through the hills. The idea is to ensure no person enters Sikkim without screening,” said an official.
The announcement has come as welcome news for tourists and all those associated with the tourism industry, a sector that generates major revenue and provides employment to thousands in the Himalayan state. “Sikkim has always been in the integrated circuit with Darjeeling, Kalimpong and the Dooars. It is good that we can now accept bookings from tourists who intend to visit the region,” said Samrat Sanyal, general secretary, Himalayan Hospitality and Tourism Development Network.
Stakeholders, however, have sought clarifications. A transporter in Siliguri pointed out that in the Sikkim notification, it wasn’t clear if drivers who ferry tourists to and from the state had to be fully vaccinated or provide reports of RT-PCR negative tests which have been carried not before 72 hours every time they enter Sikkim.
“It would be a cumbersome process then as all the drivers of the region, who take tourists to Sikkim, are yet to get both doses of the vaccine,” the transporter said.
Sikkim, which borders Tibet in the north and northeast, Bhutan in the east, Nepal in the west, and Bengal in the south, is famed for pilgrim spots and a host of tourism attractions, including mountains, lakes, glaciers and wildlife.