Strict restrictions continue in Kashmir as COVID curfew extended till Thursday
With no letup in unabated rise in the number of fresh Coronavirus cases and deaths, strict restriction on movement of people and transportation continued on Monday as the ‘84-hour-long COVID curfew’ that was imposed last week has been extended by the administration across Kashmir valley till Thursday.
Meanwhile, the entire Srinagar has been designated as Red Zone while rest of the nine districts have been placed in Orange Zone by the administration, which is seeking cooperation from the public to curtail the spread of COVID-19 by strictly adhering to the lockdown.
However, essential services were exempted from the lockdown in the valley, where so far 1694 people have been fined and 171 others have been arrested for violating COVID curfew and other guidelines since April 29.
The administration on Sunday said that all universities, schools, Colleges, coaching centres and technical / skill development institutions in J&K will continue to remain closed till May 31. However, religious places of worship will remain open though people have been directed to follow strict COVID guidelines, including wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.
The extension in the lockdown in the valley has come in the backdrop of unabated rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in Kashmir, particularly the summer capital, Srinagar, which has recorded the major chunk of positive cases during the last about a fortnight. Srinagar alone, out of 3571 new COVID-19 cases in J&K, reported 1126 cases on Sunday, while Baramulla recorded 268 cases followed by Jammu with 486 cases, Anantnag with 222, Budgam with 194 cases, Kulgam with 188 and Kupwara with 122 cases. Fresh COVID cases in rest of the districts in Kashmir are in double digits.
Even through Lt Governor Manoj Sinha had prolonged ‘COVID curfew’ in only three districts in Kashmir — Srinagar, Budgam and Baramulla — till May 6, Deputy Commissioners (DCs) of rest of the seven districts announced extension of the lockdown amid unabated rise in the number of Coronavirus cases and deaths in the valley.
J&K administration on Sunday also ordered that there will be complete weekend ‘Corona curfew’ within municipal, urban local body limits in all 20 districts of the Union Territory from 1900 hrs every Friday till 0700 hrs every Monday.
Meanwhile, the vaccination drive for the people in the age group of 18 and 45 years, which was launched on Saturday evening in Srinagar and Jammu, has started to pickup pace in some areas. However, people allege that there are only few centres designated by the administration with very limited slots available for vaccination, making it hard to get an appointment. “I have been coming to the vaccination centre at Natipora from last two days, but the officials have been saying that the vaccine is not available,” Shabir Ahmad, a resident of Budshah Nagar, told UNI.
Similar, allegations were made by many other people, who could be seen waiting outside the vaccination centres in different parts of the city.
Streets continued to wear a deserted look as shops and business establishments remained closed though few vehicles were plying on the road in the summer capital, Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir valley, where security forces have closed majority of the roads with barbed wires and barricades to stop the movement of people.
However, shops selling vegetables, milk and fruits were open as they have been exempted from the lockdown. The administration has allowed grocery shops, milk and dairy product shops, fruit and vegetable mandi, bakery and meat shops to function between 1000 hrs and 1800 hrs even during the lockdown. Chemist shops, LPG/petrol pumps, ATM, media, FCI, e-Commerce, construction activities, COVID-19 vaccination, inter-state movement are also allowed during the lockdown.
All the roads and market places, including Lal Chowk, the nerve centre of the summer capital, remained sealed with authorities 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.
As many as 3571 new positive cases of novel Coronavirus, including 1150 from Jammu division and 2421 from Kashmir division, were reported on Sunday. Forty one people, including 13 from Kashmir and 28 from Jammu, lost their lives due to the virus on Sunday.
Reports of similar restrictions were coming from other parts of the valley, including Sopore, Baramulla, Bandipora and Kupwara in north and Anantnag, Pulwama and Kulgam, Shopian in south Kashmir. Shops and business establishments were closed and roads 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 also 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.
Following the extension of the lockdown, the District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) has set up a round the clock COVId-19 War Room in Srinagar to provide service to people in case of any emergency.
Deputy Commissioner (DC), Srinagar Aijaz Asad, who is also chairman of DDMA, in a tweet said a round the clock COVID-19 War Room to deal with the prevailing surge in infections on the district. People have been asked to contact on the helpline numbers 01942- 483650/651 in case of emergency with regard to requirement of medical oxygen, ambulance, vaccination, ICU beds, essential medicines or teleconsultation.
The UT administration had imposed corona lockdown from 1900 hrs from Thursday and till 0700 hrs on Monday in Srinagar, Anantnag, Baramulla, Badgam, Kulgam, Pulwama and Ganderbal in Kashmir valley. The lockdown was later extended to the remaining three Kashmir districts — including Kupwara, Bandipora in north and Shopian in south — from Friday evening till Monday morning. However, essential services were exempted from the lockdown.
Meanwhile, the Divisional Administration Kashmir on Sunday released a documentary highlighting the present COVID-19 situation and measures taken to contain its spread in Kashmir.
An official spokesperson said that during the 6 minute and 31 second documentary awareness is raised about COVID-19, importance of lockdown, besides vaccination of frontline workers, including health workers, religious scholars, traders and shopkeepers in first phase. “It also highlights other measures taken by the government to safeguard lives of people during the pandemic,” he said.
On April 8, night curfew was imposed in the urban areas of eight districts, including Jammu and Srinagar, though it was later extended to all 20 districts of the Union Territory in view of unabated rise in COVID-19 cases.
The administration also ordered the closure of all universities, colleges, schools, and coaching centres in the Union Territory till May 15 though teaching and non-teaching staff was asked to attend schools and colleges. But, last month, the J&K administration 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 has been 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 non-availability of smart phones. The decision to allow teachers to taken online classes from their respective homes was taken after many teaching and non teaching staff members of government schools testing positive for the virus in the Union Territory.