Health experts in India fear that a third wave of infections is not far off amid a surge of tourists to hill stations as travel restrictions are eased in various parts of the country. Photos and videos on social media showed large crowds flocking to popular mountain retreats such as Shimla, Manali and Mussoorie without following Covid-appropriate behaviour.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi acknowledged that the tourism industry has been badly hit by lockdowns but raised objections to large crowds in hill stations and markets.

As many as 32,900 tourists visited Nainital in Uttarakhand, while 20,000 went to Mussoorie over the past weekend, The Indian Express reported, citing official data.

The country’s top doctors’ body, the Indian Medical Association, said on Monday that it feared gathering of tourists and pilgrims could become “super-spreader events” that fuel a deadly third wave of infections. The association appealed to state governments and citizens to not lower their guard against the infection.

Here are a few photos of crowding at various hill stations:

Tourists at Mall Road in Shimla. [Credit: PTI]
Tourists at a waterfall in Khoksar in Lahaul Spiti district in Himachal Pradesh. [Credit: PTI]
Tourists at Mall Road in Manali. [Credit: PTI]
Traffic jam at Patnitop in Jammu and Kashmir. [Credit: PTI]
Traffic jam on the Manali-Leh highway. [Credit: AFP]