COVID curfew enters fifth week in Kashmir; no letup in death rate

Srinagar, May 27 (UNI) The COVID curfew imposed by the administration to curtail the spread of the dreaded virus has entered fifth week on Thursday in Kashmir valley, where strict restrictions continued even as there was slight dip in the number of fresh positive cases though there was no letup in the deaths due to the infection.

Meanwhile, urging the administration to ensure that reopening criteria is met before lifting lockdown in Kashmir, Doctor Association Kashmir (DAK) on Thursday said ease in restrictions should be driven by data rather than by public pressure or economy. “The decision to ease out restriction should be determined by the criteria,” DAK President and influenza expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan said.

Even though the spread of COVID-19 has dipped slightly in Srinagar and other parts of the valley, there was no relaxation in the number of deaths per day due to the infection. As many as 3037 new positive cases, including 1948 from Kashmir and 1089 from Jammu, were on Wednesday reported in the Union Territory. Forty people, including 21 from Kashmir and 19 from Jammu, lost their lives to the infection on Wednesday. This is for the first time since the second wave hit the Union Territory that Kashmir division has reported more deaths than Jammu division.

The Jammu and Kashmir administration last week extended the COVID curfew, which was supposed to end on May 23, by another week till May 31 in all 20 districts of the Union Territory amid no letup in the number of fresh coronavirus cases and deaths. This was the fourth successive extension of COVID curfew since April 29 in the valley, where the vaccination drive has picked up after severe criticism over non-availability of jabs for several weeks. The extension had come in the backdrop of no letup in the number of COVID-19 cases in J&K, particularly Kashmir division.

However, ignoring personal safety, besides appeals by ulmas and religious scholars to adhere to COVID curfew imposed to break the chain, people continue to hit the streets in the valley, where thousands of violators have been fined and arrested while hundreds of vehicles have been seized since April 29.

A heavy rush of people was again witnessed in the morning on the roads, besides outside banks and ATMs in the city and other parts of the valley, where police had to intervene and sent them back to their homes. Later, streets again wore a deserted look while shops and business establishments were closed and traffic was off the roads in the valley, including Srinagar.

Standalone shops — selling fruits, vegetables, grocery, milk and other dairy products — have been allowed to function between 0600 hrs and 1000 hrs every day amid strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols, including ensuring social distancing in Srinagar and other districts in the valley. However, many shops and business establishments, including selling non-essential commodities, open in the evenings some areas in uptown Srinagar and downtown.

All the roads and market places, including Lal Chowk, the the nerve centre of the summer capital remained sealed to prevent movement of people. Shops and businesses established were closed while all the roads were deserted as traffic and people were off the roads in downtown, civil lines, uptown in Srinagar. But, people with emergency or associated with essential services, including doctors and paramedics were allowed to move on the roads after proper verification at various checkpoints established by police.

Reports of similar restrictions were coming from other parts of the valley, including Sopore, Baramulla, Bandipora and Kupwara in north and Shopian, Anantnag, Pulwama and Kulgam in south Kashmir. Shops and business establishment were closed and road wore a deserted look in these districts, where police parties were patrolling their respective areas to ensure strict implementation of the lockdown.

Business and other activities remained crippled in central Kashmir districts of Budgam and Ganderbal, where roads have been closed with barbed wires in most parts to prevent movement of vehicles and people.

The administration last month ordered the closure of all universities, colleges, schools, and coaching centres in the Union Territory till May 15 though teaching and non-teaching staff were asked to attend schools and colleges. But, the J&K administration later allowed teaching and non-teaching staff to stay home in view of a surge in COVID-19 cases in Jammu and Kashmir. The closure of the educational institutes was later extended till May 30.

Teachers, however, are conducting online classes from home in the valley though many students alleged that they were unable to attend these classes due to the non-availability of smartphones. The decision to allow teachers to take online classes from their respective homes was taken after many teaching and non-teaching staff members of government schools tested positive for the virus in the Union Territory.

UNI ABS JW1818

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