Houseboats, much sought after by tourists for cruising across the backwaters, are likely to double up as Covid-19 isolation wards in Alappuzha district in Kerala, if the need arises. The administration is exploring the possiblity of using houseboats as isolation units in the event of any emergency, district collector, M Anjana said. “We have identified 5,806 beds with attached toilets in Alappuzha from hotels, resorts, hostels and lodges to accomodate patients, if there is a need, as there are not many hospitals in the district”, she told PTI.
Discussions with the Houseboat Owners Association has been held and they were willing to provide their boats, she said. “We can easily get at least 1,500-2,000 beds from the houseboats she said adding this was an option that can be worked out. Various issues like logistics, bringing the boats to one point, etc have to be streamlined, she said.
This was in addition to the over 5,800 beds already identified. All Kerala Houseboat Owners Association President, V Vinod said they were willing to cooperate with the government during the tyring times. During the two consecutive floods in the last two years, they had suffered massive loss as there was no business.
“Last season also there was hardly any business and we could just maintain costs. Like a bolt from the blue, Covid-19 has struck us now,” he told PTI. With the situation grim globally, foreign tourists are unlikely to come to the state any time soon and the tour industry will be the last to pick up, he said adding the government was yet to announce any help for this sector.
Vinod said during the floods, the houseboats had been used to evacuate over 30,000 people from the low lying Kuttanad region and many were allowed to stay in the boats. The houseboats are huge, slow moving exotic barges used for leisure trips, and are a reworked version of the “Kettuvallams” of olden times. The original “Kettuvallams” were used to carry tonnes of rice and spices.
When modern trucks replaced this system of transport, people came up with a new way that would keep these “kettuvalam,” by constructing special rooms to accommodate travellers.
In Alappuzha alone, there are as many as 1,000 houseboats, which provide furnished bedrooms, modern toilets, cozy living rooms, a kitchen and even a balcony for angling.
Presently, 7,046 people are under observation in Alappuzha for the infection of whom 11 are in hospitals.