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Covid-19: Kashmir Civil Society Members Voice Concern On Lockdown Strategy

by Khalid Bashir Gura

SRINAGAR: As Kashmir valley braces for a third lockdown from Thursday evening owing to the rising Covid-19 cases, the civil society at large is suggesting various measures to contain the raging contagion while keeping a complete lockdown strategy as the last measure.

The 84-hour lockdown will be the third consecutive since reading of Article 370 on August 5, 2019.

Dr Suhail Naik, President Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) said Section 144 is better with people adhering to Covid-19 appropriate behaviour rather than locking people down.

“People can still flatten the curve if they wear masks and sanitize hands which people generally do,” Dr Naik said adding that people should avoid all sorts of gatherings and go for vaccination en masse.

“If we will not follow protocols, Delhi like the situation is not far away,” the DAK President said.

He said the concerns of the financial condition of common people including daily wagers, street vendors, auto-rickshaws drivers are to be kept in mind but if people will not adhere to SOPs then there will be a clampdown.

“People are not able to understand the importance of adherence to precautions. We have also seen during the lockdown how people from four different families came together to play carom. They think the virus will not catch them,” he said.

Meanwhile, the current lockdown comes at a time when people especially daily wagers had started to financially get back on track since August 5.

Noted journalist Gowhar Geelani said the people should voluntarily stay at home especially those who can afford like government employees.

“People who can work from home and not come out unnecessarily.”

“But people like street vendors who have been off the street and without income during previous lockdowns should not be whisked away,” he said.

According to him, the curbs on gatherings are being ordered by people who have allowed and encouraged congregational gatherings, cultural and music festival when the Covid-19 graph had been flattened.

“It is ironic that Amarnath Yatra has still not been cancelled,” he said.

He said while people should adhere to Covid-19 SOPs but daily wagers should not be made to face the brunt of a complete lockdown. “It will be back-breaking for them.”

With Jammu and Kashmir witnessing a 700 per cent spike in Covid-19 cases since the start of this month, people have been blaming the influx of tourists and other travellers for the current situation.

Sheikh Aashiq President Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) said that they welcome the inflow of tourists but only those who test negative on arrival in the Valley.

“We urged authorities not to allow the random flow of people.”

He said the strategy to keep only 50 per cent of shops open has already made markets look deserted. “People especially daily wagers are suffering.”

“People asking for lockdown from their lavish and cosy rooms should understand it is already lockdown as the market is already down because of odd-even strategy,” he said adding that as life is important so is the livelihood.

Chowdhary Irshad Ahmad Khatana, a Tribal Activist wrote on Twitter, “The Decision of the J&K administration for complete lockdown in 11 districts is a welcome step. It will save so many precious lives. However, the administration also should make availability of basic commodities of life, which will decrease crisis so common man will not suffer in Lockdown.”

Owais Habib, a resident of the Shehar-e-Khaas said, “If we want no lockdowns then we must follow SOPs in letter and spirit. But who will do that?” he said raising questions on people’s complacency towards the raging pandemic.

“I personally call it imported Corona because it was brought in again in Kashmir in the form of tourists and non-local workers,” he added.

“Even people in Masjids do not wear masks.”

Zubair Ahmed, a shopkeeper said the lockdown will create huge problems for him as Eid-ul-Fitr is approaching.

Ahmed expects an uptick in sales but a surge in Covid-19 cases and a complete lockdown is upending his hopes.

On Wednesday, J&K breached a record high of three thousand cases a day with Srinagar emerging as the district with the highest cases.

Among the fresh cases, 989 were from Jammu Division and 2034 from Kashmir valley, taking the total number of infections to 169077.

To set the precedent high, the Anjuman Auqaf had decided to close down the Srinagar’s historic Jamia Masjid for congregation prayers.

Since the reading down of Article 370, lockdowns have continued to haunt the Union Territory especially the Kashmir division. The Article 370 lockdown in the valley was followed by pandemic triggered lockdown last year.

However, people were expecting a respite this year. The brief respite came when Covid-19 positive cases receded in winters but with the onset of spring, and the resumption of routine congregational activities doubled by complacency by people and government, the Covid-19 virus made a resurgence lethally compelling government authorities to resort to lockdown to flatten the curve.

As per a report published in the Economic Times, J&K recorded a 700 per cent increase in Covid-19 active cases in four weeks of April from 2874 cases on April 1 to around 22283 active cases on Tuesday.

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