With a COVID vaccine still a far cry, stakeholders in Kerala’s Ayurveda and wellness centres have demanded that the government roll out special operating procedures (SOPs) to cater to heightened demand from people across the globe who want to detoxify and rejuvenate themselves to boost immunity levels to take on the virus.

The entire world is adapting to ‘Live with COVID by following strict protocols’ as a way to revive economic activities. Traditionally, foreign and domestic tourists used to visit Kerala for up to 10 months a year in search of prominent Ayurveda hospitals and 100-odd treatment centres offering an array of weekly and 14 and 21-day treatments. The 30-odd wellness centres, which are more popular among foreigners, are mostly located on the beachfront. These two sectors contribute a substantial chunk of the ₹45,000 crore annual revenue of the State from tourist arrivals, official sources said.

The Ayurveda treatment season fell from 10 months to eight months, following the deluge of 2018 and intense rainfall in 2019. The pandemic has, however, caused a rise in demand from people for treatment packages, said Sajeev Kurup, president of Kerala Ayurveda Promotion Society and chairman of Ayurveda Task Force of FICCI Tourism Committee. “Based on Unlock-4 declared by the Central government, States like Karnataka, Goa, and Maharashtra have opened up their borders, while Tamil Nadu has reopened corridors leading to tourism destinations like Ooty and Kodaikanal. Hundreds of people, including film stars from other States, are keen to drive down to Kerala to avail traditional treatment and rejuvenation packages,” he added.

Govt. directive

While adhering to the State government’s protocols and directions like mandatory COVID test, the Ayurveda and wellness sectors in Kerala are willing to go the extra mile. Thus, guests could arrive with the results of a recent RT-PCR test or adhere to dual tests — rapid antigen and RT-PCR test on arrival — to obviate the need for 14-day quarantine. “Moreover, Ayurveda does not attract tourists en masse. It is mostly individuals or couples who come seeking treatment. The government must issue directives in this regard, since tourists seeking traditional and wellness health packages may be turned away by the present quarantine rules,” Mr. Kurup said.

Stakeholders in the sector are willing to do monthly COVID test on doctors and other employees and provide accommodation to them to be doubly sure of their health condition. “This will be of tremendous help to people keen to avail immune-boosting treatments, especially those in metro cities who remain locked up in their apartments. Ayurveda has much to offer for mental wellness too. We hope international flights will pick up from October-end, bringing foreign guests in the run-up to the traditional peak tourism season,” he added.

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