By Minahil Makhdoom
ISLAMABAD: Contrary to past practices and traditions, majority people have preferred to stay at their homes instead of visiting relatives, friends and recreational sites during Eid-ul-Fitr holidays in compliance with the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) introduced by the government for containment of the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) spread.
The government had announced that picnic points would remain closed due to the looming threat of the virus, which claimed more than 1,000 lives in Pakistan and 3,45,046 across the world in just few months. In past, it had been the public routine to move to recreational sites on second day of Eid in federal capital including Shakarparian, Daman-e-Koh, Yasmin Garden, Monal, Lake View Park, Chattar Park to enjoy the Eid festivities with their families members and friends. Murree, one of the most visited areas during the Eid holidays, had also been remained closed as par the government announcement, where normally it always made special arrangements to cope with the visitors rush. Last year, around 60,000 to 80,000 vehicles had entered the hill station during Eid holidays for which traffic police made special deployment to manage the vehicles coming from different parts of the country. Even it had to ban, entry of more vehicles after the number increased to capacity.
During these holidays, the entry of tourists was banned in Murree in the wake of coronavirus pandemic, said Deputy Commissioner Rawalpindi Capt. Â® Anwar ul Haq. â€œAll the tourist spots and hotels in Murree would remain closed during Eid ul-Fitr holidays as part of precautionary measures against COVID-19,â€ he said. The DC said the decision had been taken to control the spread of virus and in the best interest of people so that they could be saved from any life-threatening danger.
He urged the citizens to avoid visiting touring spots particularly Murree during the holidays. He was of the view that the public rush at the tourist spots could cause further spread of the novel coronavirus. Last year, according to President of Kaghan Valley Hotels Association Saith Matiullah Naran and Kaghan valleys received 300,000 to 400,000 tourists during Eid holidays days from different parts of the country.
This time, tourism spots across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were closed throughout the holidays to avoid gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic, Provincial Labour and Culture Minister Shaukat Yousafzai said. Naran, Kaghan, Swat and Murree are some of the most visited places in KP where locals as well as foreigners use to come for enjoying natural beauty. The minister said keeping in view the current situation, all hotels were closed during Eid days in these areas. Talking to APP President of Kaghan Valley Hotels Association Saith Matiullah Naran and Kaghan requested the government to allow tourists to visit Naran and Kaghan as this was the only source of income for the locals who had to wait four to five month for visitors for this season. â€œWe will follow the SOPs announced by the government for the safety and protection of the people, but they should be allowed to visit the areas as thousands of peoplesâ€™ bread and butter are with this activityâ€ he added. National Tourism Coordination Board Chairman Sayed Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari advised the citizens to avoid visiting tourist sites across the country during the vacations of Eid-ul-Fitr. â€œI know everyone loves to spend Eid holidays with their loved ones in Pakistanâ€™s most beautiful places, however, this year we have still not yet opened our Tourism,â€ Zulfikar Bukhari said in a video message. For travel enthusiasts, he also urged them to abstain from visiting tourist attractions, which were closed to stem spread of the coronavirus across the country.
An official of Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) told APP that during in the Holy month of Ramazan â€œWe have received thousands of calls for booking for hotels in Naran Kaghan but we refused as per the government policy.â€ Accordingly, he said, a message had also been placed at the PTDCâ€™s official website that booking was closed due to the coronavirus.