Coronavirus: Tourist centers in Tamil Nadu under lockdown; Visitors in Ooty asked to depart inside 24 hours

Major tourist places, including those in hilly Nilgiris district and the coastal town of Mamallapuram near Chennai, in Tamil Nadu, have come under lockdown as part of preventive measures to check the spread of coronavirus, officials said.

In Nilgiris district in western Tamil Nadu, officials shutdown all tourist centres, including those in the district headquarters town of Udhagamandalam, popularly known as Ooty, and asked visitors staying in hotels and resorts to return to their places within 24 hours.

Besides, people entering the district in the Western Ghats are being screened at eight check posts, District Collector Innocent Divya said.

The world-famous heritage sites in Mamallapuram, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted Chinese President Xi Jingping in an informal summit last year, were closed for visitors.

With the tourist attractions out of binding for people, the town wore a deserted look, reports received here said.

In another major hill resort town of Kodaikanal in the southern part of the state, restrictions, including screening of tourists, especially those coming from 18 COVID-19 hit countries and states like Kerala, have been announced.

The lock down of tourists centres comes a day after the state government declared holidays for all educational institutions and shut liquor bars, malls, resorts and amusement parks till March 31 in a series of measures to COVID-19’s spread, especially in the backdrop of rising cases in neighbouring states such as Kerala and Karnataka.

Tamil Nadu has so far reported only one COVID-19 case and the 45-year old man under treatment in Chennai has recovered and two subsequent tests returned negative.

A report from Udhagamandalam, known as the Queen of Hill stations, said the administration decided to close all the tourist centres in the district in view of the high incidence of COVID-19 cases in adjoining Kerala and Karnataka.

The district collector said travellers who were staying in the hotels and lodges have been asked to vacate within 24 hours and return to their places.

Nilgiris has several tourist attractions including Botanical Garden, Pykara Dam, Sims Park and, which draw thousands of tourists daily from March ahead of the summer season.

Eight people — two from Italy, three from Mecca and three from Karnataka — who had visited the district some time ago reportedly have symptoms of coronavirus and were now under observation in Kerala and Karnataka, Divya said.

However, students of international residential schools have been asked to stay there, the collector said.

A total of 40 mobile medical teams were on high alert and moving across the district, she added.

A report from Dindigul district where Kodaikanal is located said tourists from the 18 countries declared as COVID-19 hit and domestic travellers from states like Kerala would be permitted to climb the hills only after a thorough screening at the foothills.

Steps have also been taken for periodic screening of foreigners in the hill station and, if required, swab samples would be taken and sent to Chennai for test for coronavirus, Revenue Divisional Officer (In-Charge) Sivakumar said.

He said movement of tourists would also be restricted in Kodaikanal and they would not be allowed to travel on the ghat section between 8 pm and 6 am

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