Strict action will be taken against those harassing tourists: CM Pinarayi

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Thiruvananthapuram: As more instances of foreign tourists in Kerala being targeted over the coronavirus outbreak surfaced on Tuesday, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan warned of strict action on those taunting the visitors. He said that the public should not behave as if it was the end of the world. He was referring to the inhuman treatment meted out to tourists in North and Central Kerala. He said that once the COVID-19 scare passed, Kerala would have to depend on tourism to revive its fortunes.

"Inhumane acts cannot be allowed and strong action will be taken," Pinarayi told reporters after a review meeting of COVID-19 here.

Referring to the incidents of two tourists from Kannur being denied food and place to stay, a Spanish national being asked by other passengers to disembark from a bus and a French woman and her three-year-old son facing difficulty in finding food and accommodation, Pinarayi said these were "shameful acts."

"The attitude of certain people towards foreigners is not right. It is not their mistake that the coronavirus is spreading. In the state too, many have been infected," he said.

There is a need to strengthen the tourism sector and if the visitors have such bad experiences, it would affect the state's reputation, he said adding such inhumane acts cannot be allowed and the government would take stringent action against those indulging in such behaviour.

"They (foreigners) are also humans. We cannot allow such inhuman acts in our state", Pinarayi said.

“Such an approach towards foreign tourists will give a wrong message to the world,” the Chief Minister said.

Two tourists had to go without a morsel of food for four days after hotels in Kannur allegedly refused to serve them any and they did not get a place to stay.

The foreigners - a man and a woman - were seen crying out of hunger on the wayside by locals in Payyannur in north Kerala town of Kannur following which the police and local authorities extended them a helping hand.

The French and Italian nationals later said they had reached Kannur on March 11 but had not got any food for the last four days and had been starving. They said they wandered here and there and knocked at doors of many hotels and restaurants for food but no one helped them.

Seeing the plight of the visitors, police and Payyannur civic body authorities bought them food and shifted them to Thalassery taluk hospital. The tourists, who reached Kerala after visiting Mumbai, Goa, and Madurai, had no symptom of the coronavirus, authorities said.

While hotels and resorts are denying foreigners rooms, restaurants are reluctant to give them food in many places even in well-known tourist destinations.

Local people even chased them away out of fear of the spread of the virus and tried to evict them forcefully from public buses, the visitors complained.

In another incident, a French couple, who reached Kannur from the high-range Wayand on a state-run KSRTC bus, had to face the wrath of co-passengers.

Some local passengers, who got frightened seeing the foreigners, didn't allow the bus to proceed further.

A number of passengers even got out of the bus due to the presence of the French couple.

The bus was later taken to Kannur Town police station, from where the couple was shifted to the district hospital for observation.

The couple, who reached the southern state on March 2 via Dubai, had no symptom of the virus in the preliminary examination, police said.

In Kochi, police extended a helping hand to a 27- year-old French woman Desmazure and her three-year-old Tao on Monday.

Police traced the woman, who had lost her purse and had no money, based on the information of local people that a foreigner and child were roaming around the city amid the coronavirus threat.

Their trouble began after an enquiry by local health officials found that she had also been to Varkala, from where an Italian tourist had tested positive. She was taken to a hospital and found she had no symptoms.

As she had no money, she was forced to spend the night at the hospital corridor all night. Though a room was provided later, it was not clean and was full of cobwebs and mosquitoes.

The police later helped her to contact the French Consulate in Puducherry to arrange money and to go to Delhi via train. She was also given a 'no coronavirus' certificate by the doctors before departing from the state, they added.

Meanwhile, DGP Loknath Behera said police would ensure accommodation to the foreigners finding it difficult to get it.

Local police officials were asked to inform the tourism department about such tourists in distress.

(With inputs from PTI)

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