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Corona Pandemic in Kashmir and the Administrative Response 

Khursheedul Aalam, Naveed ul Islam

The coronavirus outbreak came to light on December 31, 2019 when China informed the World Health Organisation of a cluster cases of pneumonia of an unknown cause in Wuhan City in Hubei Province. Subsequently the disease spread to more Provinces in China, and to the rest of the world. The WHO has now declared it a pandemic. The virus has been named SARS-CoV-2 and the disease is now called COVID-19. The source of the coronavirus is believed to be a “wet market” in Wuhan which sold both dead and live animals including fish and birds.

While, The first positive case of coronavirus came to light in Jammu & Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar on 18 March 2020, triggering concern among people in the valley. Three new cases of COVID19 were confirmed on Tuesday in Kashmir, taking the toll of those infected in J&K to 55.

According to the daily Media Bulletin on novel coronavirus (COVID19) 3260 persons have been kept under home quarantine while as 307 are in hospital quarantine (till March 31). Persons who are under home surveillance stand at 2163 while as 735 persons have completed their 28-day surveillance period. The Bulletin further said that 588 samples have been sent for testing of which 542 tested as negative while as 8 reports are awaited.

Prime Minister, Modi declared a 21-day lockdown on the night of 24 March. According to guidelines issued by the union home ministry, sections of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code—which details the punishment for disobeying orders by a public servant—can be imposed on violators of the containment measures. Apart from this, restrictive orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure were also applied in several districts of Jammu and Kashmir.

To curb the spread of Corona pandemic Govt has increased contact tracing of positive cases. Principal Secretary to Government Rohit Kansal tweeted: “Aggressive contact tracing of positive cases key to control spread of coronavirus. Yesterday several areas surrounding location of positive cases or untraced contact cases had to be sealed in Jammu, Srinagar, Pulwama, Shopian, Rajouri.” He further reiterated that “This is purely in the interest of controlling spread of coronavirus, and helping identification of contacts on real time basis. Inconvenience so caused is temporary in nature but benefits will be immense. Request all to cooperate and take it in right spirit.”

While DC Srinagar reassured people that “Life saving drugs stocks [are] available for 20 days. Regular medicines stock for a month. Stakeholders meeting today asked for caution against hoarding. 70% supplies come from Jammu. Arrangements are being made for vital drugs coming from elsewhere.” He further said, “Ration is reaching homes. We will cover every household. PDS home-delivery 14175 Qntl has reached 25,212 families in 6 zones last 3 days. Sixteen zones to start from tomorrow. Target all 36 Zones. LPG reached 14075 homes. We are at it.”

Doctors on the other hand are asking the authorities to keep adequate stock of Personal Protective Equipment, portable oxygen plants, oxygen concentrators, bulk oxygen cylinders, N-95 masks, gloves, anti-retroviral drugs, anti-viral drugs. Mohammad Salim Khan said in an interview that “Those people quarantined in hotels and educational institutions need to be screened and sent back home for home quarantine under active surveillance of health officials of Integrated Disease Surveillance program IDSP).”

As the situation is not looking good and infection seems to be peaking, it is important to strictly implement and follow the Government advisories. Health infrastructure is already getting stretched. Therefore, people need to stay home and try to minimise social interactions so that transmission is reduced.

*Authors are PhD scholars in disciplines of International Relations and Information Technology, respectively. *Inputs/Stats from Tajamul Mir at the SKIMS MC.

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