The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has said that they do not have the technology or the equipment to screen the estimated 30,000 people who visit the Taj Mahal every day.
The statement comes in the wake of the coronavirus scare that has gripped Agra after six patients, suspected of having contracted the virus from the city, were transferred to Delhi on Tuesday (3 March) for advance treatment. All six people have now been tested positive with the virus, Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan confirmed.
They had come in contact with the infected Delhi patient who had returned from Italy and was tested positive on Monday.
ASI superintending archaeologist in Agra circle, Vasan K Swarankar, said that there is no special equipment or technology at the monument to screen tourists. He said he has advised his team to inform the health department, if anyone is visibly found having symptoms of extreme cough, cold, and fever.
"We cannot do much until someone informs us," said Swarankar, adding that the airport is already using thermal imaging technology for screening tourists coming to India as part of precautionary measures and an advisory has also been issued to hotels.
The local people are of opinion that the Taj Mahal, which is one of the biggest tourist destinations in the country, should be closed for some time.
''Since a large number of foreign tourists visiting India come to see the Taj in Agra, this could lead to spreading of the disease here, if anyone of them is affected with the deadly virus goes unnoticed. Many tourists do not even stay in hotel and leave the city by road after visiting the monument," said Dr Veena Moitra, a physician.
The tourism industry, however, feels that shutting the monument would send a wrong message across the world. Instead, there should be arrangements for screening of tourists at Taj Mahal.
Tour operator, Mohammad Arshad said that a team of health officials should be available at the Taj Mahal and they should undertake checks of foreign tourists'' health cards.
Vice President of Tourism Guild, Agra, Rajiv Saxena, said, "The government''s decision to cancel the visas to Italians, Koreans, Iranians and Japanese tourists is a knee jerk reaction".
"This shows that we are not equipped to handle the crisis. Such steps should be avoided as large and only suspected cases should be quarantined," he said.
He further said that creating panic among tourists would work against the tourism industry in future too.
"Tourists travelling to India on valid visas are being unnecessarily harassed despite adhering all prerequisite terms and conditions of the government. Instead, we should restore confidence in them that India is safe," he added.
(With inputs from IANS)
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