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Regular-article-logo Thursday, 20 June 2024

Foreigners living in a cave in Rishikesh test negative for coronavirus

They have been kept in separate rooms in quarantine at an ashram in the city for 14 days

Piyush Srivastava Lucknow Published 23.04.20, 11:11 PM
A local intelligence unit (LIU) official said the four men and two women backpackers — from Turkey, France, America, Ukraine and Nepal — had been tested for various infections, including Covid-19, and quarantined in a dharamshala in the city.

A local intelligence unit (LIU) official said the four men and two women backpackers — from Turkey, France, America, Ukraine and Nepal — had been tested for various infections, including Covid-19, and quarantined in a dharamshala in the city. (Shutterstock)

Six foreigners who had been living in a cave in Rishikesh, “apparently terrorised” by the possibility of contracting the coronavirus disease, have all tested negative for Covid-19 a week after police in Uttarakhand rescued them from their mountain refuge.

A local intelligence unit (LIU) official said the four men and two women backpackers — from Turkey, France, America, Ukraine and Nepal — had been tested for various infections, including Covid-19, and quarantined in a dharamshala in the city.

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“Their medical tests, including for coronavirus infection, are negative. We are keeping a close watch on the six foreigners, two from Ukraine and one each from the US, France, Turkey and Nepal,” Kanhaiya Lal told The Telegraph over the phone on Thursday.

“They have been kept in separate rooms in quarantine at an ashram in the city for 14 days and are made to follow the isolation rules meticulously. We provide snacks and food to them on time.”

The six had taken refuge in a cave on the banks of the Ganga in the Garunchatti area of Rishikesh in Dehradun district on March 24. Informed by local sources, the LIU and the police rescued them from the cave on April 18 and quarantined them at the dharamshala, part of the Laxmi Narayan Mandir Swargashram.

Lal said the foreigners were in India on tourist visas. “They were apparently terrorised at the impact of the virus and decided to live in an isolated place. Unsure of how long the lockdown would continue, they bought foodgrains and took refuge in the cave, where they cooked their food. We came to know on the 25th day that some foreigners were hiding there and rescued them. They are disciplined people.”

Rakendra Singh Kathait, station house officer, Laxmanjhula police station in the city, said: “They were hiding in the cave near Neelkanth Bypass, about a kilometre from the Garunchatti crossing. When we reached there on April 18, the foreigners said they didn’t have enough money and so had decided to live there till the lockdown ended. Before that, they were living in a hotel in the (city’s) Muni Ki Reti area.”

According to their passports, Lal said Merve Turhan of Turkey had landed in India on February 19. Ladislas Lucas of France had arrived on October 28 last year. Michael Raffaele of America arrived on November 12. Oleh Sandetskyi and Oksana Kravchuk, both from Ukraine, had arrived on December 7, while Vishnu Giri of Nepal had reached Dehradun in the second week of March. Merve and Oksana are women.

Except Oleh and Oksana, none knew each other before they reached Rishikesh in February this year. They stayed in the same hotel and decided to shift to the cave after the central government announced the lockdown decision on March 24.

“It was also an adventure for them as they lived in the cave, cooked their food and enjoyed life without spending much. It is a lifetime’s experience for them. The ashram where they are in quarantine is also a nice place. Rishikesh’s association with The Beatles has always attracted foreigners here,” said a tourism department official, requesting not to be named.

John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison of the British rock band had stayed in Chaurasi Kutiya, an ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, in February 1968.

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