People out on a street in Manali earlier this week after Covid restrictions were eased (File)

New Delhi:

Crowding at places popular with tourists is raising concerns among health experts working with the government, especially with the possibility of a third devastating wave of COVID-19. A top official of the government’s Covid task force said the second wave is not over yet and people should not let their guard down. “The war is not over yet,” NITI Aayog member on health Dr VK Paul told reporters in Delhi today.

Several states have eased restrictions on travel and public activity after Covid cases started falling in the last two months, signalling what was seen as the retreat of the deadly second wave. This seemed to have encouraged people to visit hill stations and other tourist places, all at once, leading to huge crowds – a dangerous trend since Covid is known to spread via air, hence the need to wear safety mask and practice social distancing.

“In a mood of recreation at tourist spots, there is particularly risk of Covid. Infection has always spread in crowded places faster. Tourism should be there, but if we are irresponsible and don’t follow Covid-appropriate behaviour, the virus can spread faster,” said Dr Paul, who is also a key member of the centre’s Covid task force.

“This is a cause of concern as these people will return and can infect others. The time is not quite there to be completely normal. All the gains (in the fight against Covid) can reverse. We can’t afford this kind of laxity. There needs to be a continuous campaign against Covid,” Dr Paul told reporters today.

In recent days, photos have emerged on social media showing thousands of people out on a small street at Manali and hundreds gathered on a small patch of rock under a waterfall in Mussoorie. The posts led to alarm among experts, with many criticising the behaviour of the tourists as reckless, just after the devastating second wave that killed over two lakh people.

“We want to request the public to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour under all circumstances. You are not just exposing yourselves, but also near and dear ones and it can result in us losing the battle against Covid,” Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agrawal told reporters today.

The highly infectious Delta variant, which was first detected in India, is particularly of great concern. More strains of the virus that originated from China continue to be detected across the globe.

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