All residents of a remote village in Himachal Pradesh’s Lahaul-Spiti district except one tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this month in one of the worst outbreaks of COVID-19 in the mountainous region where temperatures have dipped below zero.
While 41 people tested positive in the Thorang village, 52-year-old Bhushan Thakur said he managed to avoid the infection by simply following the basic safety measures.
“The main reason that I tested negative was that I use a mask and sanitizer and maintain social distancing,” he said.
“Six people in my family too are positive. I have isolated myself from them, I cook my own food and they are in a different room. The main reason for the spread of coronavirus here is the cold because it makes most people huddle in one room in front of the fireplace,” he added.
Deputy Commissioner of Lahaul-Spiti district Pankaj Rai said, “The population of the village is around 160. Due to winter people from the village moved out to other places. So, the remaining 42 were tested on November 13 out of which 41 tested positive.”
The villagers were tested again on Saturday and some of them have tested negative now, he said.
According to Mr Rai, a religious gathering was held on October 13 in the village and that may have been the reason for the infection’s spread.
“We can’t ascertain the exact reason but due to change in weather conditions the movement of people increased and maybe that could also be one of the reasons,” he added.
ML Bandhu, a government doctor in the district said, “All people who have tested positive are alright. No one is in a serious condition. But we have asked for a door-to-door survey to find out whether anyone has comorbidities.”
Earlier in October, 39 residents of Rangrik village of Spiti valley had tested positive for the infection.
Many residents of Lahaul-Spiti generally migrate to the neighbouring Kullu district in the winter because of the extreme cold, a district official said.
A total of 890 people of Lahaul-Spiti district, accounting for about 2.83 per cent of its population of around 31,500, have been found infected with coronavirus so far, according to state department data. Of them, 479 have been cured while 406 are still recovering from the disease. Five people have died.
More than 33,000 people have tested positive for the coronavirus till date in Himachal Pradesh with the state slowly opening to tourists. Of them, 518 have died, over 26,000 have been cured and the number of active cases is 7,070.