Jammu and Kashmir is witnessing the first community transmission of the novel coronavirus at Gund Jahangir hamlet in Bandipora and in surrounding areas. Sixty-four positive cases have been reported in 10 days. The administration is grappling with poor medical staff and a slow rate of testing.
It started with the sudden death of Ghulam Nabi Mir, 54, on April 7. With no travel history or contact with a positive case, Mir, a fruit dealer, died within a day of his admission to Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital in Srinagar.
“Mir had no travel or contact history. However, all 11 members of his family have tested positive,” Hajin Block Medical Officer Ajaz Ahmad told Kashmir Post. Thirty-one people, whose had contact with Mir, have tested positive so far.
Dr. Ahmad described the situation at Gund Jahangir, which has 604 households and 3,650 residents, as “a case of cluster spread”. “We are trying our best to break the chain. We continue to collect the samples of the contacts,” he said.
Gund Jahangir, 16 km away from the district headquarters, has a large farming community, with 50% of it living below the poverty line “We can earn only when we tend our fields. We have daughters to marry off and children to send to school. I fail to understand why even healthy men are being taken away to quarantine centres,” said Nazir Laway, a farmer.
According to the official figures, 31 locals have been kept in hospital quarantine, 150 in administrative quarantine and around 400 in home quarantine. They account for almost 16% of the total population.
Gund Jahangir has the highest number of cases in any tehsil of the Union Territory, which has reported 328 positive cases.
The emerging pattern is adding to the administration’s worries. “Around 90% cases that tested positive were asymptomatic. We are dealing with a fluid situation, wherein everyone is a suspect. It has spread fast in the community,” Syed Shahnawaz Bukhari, an officer on special duty in Bandipora, said.
The pace of testing is so slow that just 180 samples have been collected from Gund Jahangir. “We are awaiting the results of 60-70 samples sent from Hajin,” said Dr. Ajaz.
The area is manned by five teams, headed by five doctors, out of 10 doctors assigned to Hajin. “Testing the vulnerable old population should be our priority,” said Mr. Bukhari.
Dr. Ahmad admitted that the administration was “yet to start random testing” despite the cluster cases. This is the result of the poor testing capacity in Kashmir. Of 58,076 people in quarantine, the government had sent 5,366 samples for testing till April 16.
With the containment plan yielding no positive result, the Directorate of Health Services (DHS) on Thursday withdrew five doctors from Hajin, saying “in the interest of patient care, the services of these doctors are placed at the DHS”.