By – Tahaa Yaseen
Kashmir reported 583 coronavirus cases, its highest single-day spike, taking the total caseload in J&K to 4,050, officials said on Sunday.
Baramulla reported the highest number of cases with 132 followed by Srinagar 87, Pulwama 60, Anantnag 59, Shopian 24, Bandipora 21, Budgam 18, Ganderbal 14, and Kupwara 7.
Among the fresh cases are nearly 100 pregnant ladies, with public health experts indicating community spread of the contagion.
Public health experts are not in favour of government opening up of public spaces amidst widespread of contagion.
“In spite of clear signs of community spread from north and south Kashmir, opening up doesn’t seem to be a wise strategy at all,” said a well-known public health expert on condition of anonymity as government has barred them from going to press.
In the past over two months of lockdown, government failed to improve healthcare infrastructure to cater to the rising coronavirus cases, he said. “I fear people will die on roads for want of healthcare,” he said.
He said even if the infection behaves in a benign way and mortality remains within 2 per cent, the rate at which people would become sick and need hospitalisation in a given period should remain consistent with available resources that is the high dependency hospital beds.
“With complete opening up, this rate might be so fast that our healthcare system will not be able to handle which will be catastrophic and will increase mortality and morbidity,” he said.
Another health expert said maintaining social distancing and stopping spread after opening up was impossible in Kashmir.
“Those of us who walked Kashmir roads from last three days have witnessed caution thrown to wind. No social distance, no mask and no hand washing,” he said.
“Perhaps our hope only stems from lots of asymptomatic patients who we kept in hospitals instead of letting them stay at home and as they completed natural course of their disease, we thought we are succeeding. Reality is 40 people came with COVID-19 related serious illness and all died. We were not able to save even one,” he said.
Experts said administration in Kashmir needs to strategise differently for each district and not as whole for the Union Territory.
“Pattern is different in different districts. Srinagar, Ganderbal and Budgam clearly are at different level of transmission than Baramulla, Anantnag, Kulgam and Shopian,” he said.
Continued lockdown and isolating Srinagar might help to maintain low level of transmission and contact tracing and testing might still be the strategy, he said.
So far 40 people have died of or with COVID-19 in Jammu and Kashmir; 35 in Kashmir and five in Jammu.
Srinagar district has reported 10 COVID-19 deaths, the highest in any district in J&K, followed by seven in Baramulla, Anantnag, five, Kulgam and Shopian four each, Jammu three, Budgam and Kupwara two each, Udhampur and Bandipora one each.
Majority of the coronavirus cases have been reported from Kashmir, 2,923, and Jammu has reported 852.
Meanwhile, In view of the abrupt spike in the number of coronavirus cases, the government Sunday declared eight districts in Kashmir and one in Jammu as red zones.
The administration also issued a modified quarantine procedure under which certain sections of people traveling from outside would be allowed to go for home quarantine.
According to the government, all Kashmir districts except Ganderbal and Bandipore have been declared red zones.
Ganderbal and Bandipore figure in the orange zone list.
In Jammu, Ramban district has been declared red zone while Kathua, Samba, Reasi, Udhampur, Poonch, Rajouri, and Jammu have been included in the list of orange zones.
Doda and Kishtwar are the only districts, which have been declared as green zones.
The new categorization of the districts has been made after an overall of the situation pertaining to the spread of COVID-19 in Jammu Kashmir.
As per the orders, the trend in new cases, particularly the recent spread in new cases in view of the continuous movement of stranded persons traveling to J&K and between provinces, districts, and the risk perception of the health department vis-a-vis each district and the need to control further spread of COVID-19, the state executive committee has classified the districts in red, orange, and green zones.
“This classification of districts will be reviewed periodically and any further modifications will be made by the government of Jammu Kashmir,” the order reads.
Kashmir has been witnessing a massive spike in coronavirus cases in the past few days, creating panic among the people. Meanwhile, in a separate order, the government has permitted certain section of the people to go for home quarantine on their arrival to Jammu Kashmir from outside.
According to the government, pregnant women, patients, mothers with infants, children below 10-year-old, GoI personnel on bonafide government duty, ambulance drivers dropping patients outside J&K and returning within 36 hours, passengers with Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RTPCR) test negative certificate, business travelers by air, rail and road with a confirm return ticket within 4 days would be allowed to go for home quarantine for 14 days.
“Any passengers arriving by air, rail or any other means from outside into Jammu Kashmir will be sampled on arrival for RTPCR testing and sent to home quarantine for 14 days and if their test result is positive, they will be brought to a COVID-19 hospital recovery and treatment,” the order reads.
The government has also exempted Defence and Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) personnel returning to duty in Jammu Kashmir from compulsory RTPCR tests for coronavirus and administrative quarantine.
“The said personnel shall be allowed to proceed to the institutional quarantine of their respective units and formations for necessary quarantine as per their internal procedures,” it reads.