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Sikkim continues sharp vigil on COVID-19; tourism on hold till 15 April 2020

Sikkim is continuing its vigilance on COVID-19 Coronavirus and is likely to implement a complete lockdown from 25th March 2020. The state government is wrapping up the two-day Second Session of Tenth Assembly (Budget Session 2020-21) of Sikkim Legislative Assembly on 24th March 2020 after which further orders are likely to be issued. Essential supplies are available for the public and people are taking proper care and precautions.

The Mountain Walker has been staying abreast of government advisories and notifications, and has also spoken to local travel industry professionals and eminent bloggers from Sikkim. The state had taken the lead in devising precautionary measures to prevent spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus by announcing various prohibitory instructions on 16th March 2020.

In the 16th March notification, entry to the state was restricted by closing Reshi, Ramman and Utarey check-posts and allowing only Rangpo and Melli check-posts to function with augmented medical and police teams. From 23rd March 2020, restrictions on intra-state movement of vehicles have been enforced, with odd and even numbered private vehicles, two-wheelers and taxis being allowed to ply on alternate days. Commercial vehicles carrying essential commodities and milk supply vehicles have been specially exempted from the Odd-Even rule.

Mr. Shital Pradhan, a well-known blogger and local school teacher from Singtam, informed us “Sikkim was the first state that had announced the closure of various activities till 15th April 2020 to prevent spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus (rather than till 31st March 2020 as declared by other states).” Although Sikkim has been a 100% organic state since 2016, Mr. Pradhan said that the local produce is not sufficient for the entire population of Sikkim and the only other alternative would be to source essential supplies from Siliguri. “Moreover, the villagers who grow vegetables and fruits are coming in very less numbers to the markets as they are giving higher priority to health than to business.”

Mr Pradhan voiced concern that social media posts could have caused panic and fear amongst the locals but was thankful that the official accounts and handles of various government departments were providing proper updates on the actual situation. The locals are taking proper precautions and very few can be seen in the markets as they had already started arranging for essential commodities from 16th March 2020 when schools were closed. For government officials, a circular had been released asking them to come to office every alternate day but even that might be stopped from 25th March 2020 once complete lockdown is implemented. Although there have been no positive cases of COVID-19 Coronavirus in Sikkim, a few people with travel history to foreign countries have been placed in isolation for observation.

Chong Gasho Bhutia, a local tourist guide and travel services operator from Pelling informed us that since very few vehicles are plying, it feels like there is a curfew in place. Chong was happy that there have been no cases of COVID-19 Coronavirus in Sikkim and attributed it to the strictness at the border check-posts. All essential commodities are easily available in Pelling and they all are just hoping for the situation to improve by mid-April 2020.

Tshewang Norbu of Lhaksam Travels Gangtok said that they have cancelled all tourist bookings till 15th April 2020 and have kept the ones for future dates on hold for the time being. All tourism industry professionals such as hotel owners, cab drivers, travel agents etc have been utilising this idle time from 16th March 2020 to get all necessary documentation and permissions renewed before complete lockdown is implemented.

We hope that Sikkim stays safe under the circumstances and will keep updating information at regular intervals

Ameen Shaikh
Co-Founder & Chief of Operations
The Mountain Walker

View of Gangtok from the ropeway; Photo: Sanjay Mukherjee, June 2018
Rabdentse Ruins near Pelling, Sikkim; Photo: Sanjay Mukherjee, June 2018

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