Staffers test Covid positive at Presidential retreat

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Shimla, Sept 14 (PTI): President Ram Nath Kovind will stay at a private hotel here instead of the presidential retreat, where he normally stays, during his visit beginning Thursday to Himachal Pradesh, where he will address a special session of the state assembly.

The choice of venue follows after four staff members of the retreat tested positive for Covid-19 on Saturday, an official said.

The President during his four-day visit to Himachal Pradesh will address a special session of the state Assembly and will be the chief guest at the Valedictory Ceremony of the Indian Audit and Accounts Service at the National Academy of Audit and Accounts at Shimla, the official added.

He said the President will stay at Cecil hotel at Chaura Maidan here instead of The Retreat – the President’s residence at Chharabra on the outskirts of Shimla.

All those who come in close contact with the President will have to carry a Covid-19 RT-PCR negative report even if they have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, he added.

Earlier, speaker Vipin Singh Parmar told the media here on Tuesday that President Kovind would address the special session of the state assembly on Friday at 11 am to mark the golden jubilee of Himachal Pradesh’s statehood.

Kovind will be the third President to address the Himachal Pradesh Assembly. Then Presidents APJ Abdul Kalam and Pranab Mukherjee addressed the state Assembly in 2003 and 2013 respectively, he said.

Apart from the sitting MLAs, all the former MLAs including former chief ministers Shanta Kumar and Prem Kumar Dhumal have been invited to attend the special session, he added.

Ninety-three former MLAs, including Kumar and Dhumal, have given their consent to attend the special session, the speaker said.

Five MPs from the state and seven former MPs will also attend the session, he said.

A group photo of the President with the current and former legislators will also be taken as a memory at the Assembly, he added.

According to the schedule, the President will reach Annadale Helipad in Shimla on September 16 at 12 noon via Chandigarh from Palam airport Delhi. Subsequently, he will reach Cecil hotel at Chaura Maidan here at around 12.25 pm, the state government official said.

President Kovind will address the special session of the Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha on Friday from 11 am to 12 noon, the official said.

In the evening on Friday, he will attend a cultural programme at 7.30 pm and banquet hosted by the state governor at 8 pm, he added.

On September 18, the President will be the chief guest at the Valedictory Ceremony of the Indian Audit and Accounts Service (IAAS Officer Trainees of 2018 and 2019 batches) at the National Academy of Audit and Accounts at Shimla from 11 am to 12 noon, the official said.

On September 19, he will reach the Annadale Helipad at 11.15 am to leave for Palam airport in Delhi via Chandigarh. He will reach Rashtrapati Bhavan at 1.35 pm on Sunday, he said.

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