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Coronavirus scare puts Kashmir under virtual lockdown

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Markets shut, public transport banned in Srinagar; 21 medical teams hold house-to-house investigation in Khanyar

Photo/Javed Khan

Srinagar: A day after a woman with travel history to Saudi Arabia tested positive for coronavirus, Kashmir was put under virtual lockdown on Thursday as part of the strategy to contain the spread of disease in the Valley,.

Public transport in Srinagar city was ordered off the roads, while markets were shut on orders of the authorities.

The steps were taken hours after a 67-year-old woman from Khanyar, who had returned on March 16 from Saudi Arabia after performing Umrah, tested positive for COVID-19, officials said here.

As the infected person was not placed under any quarantine or isolation upon her return, the authorities had to seal off the entire neighbourhood of Khanyar falling within 300 metres radius of the affected patient’s residence, the officials said.

Several relatives of the infected woman who had primary contact with her have been advised to undergo tests while others, who might have had secondary contact with the patient, have been asked to undergo self-isolation for two weeks.

In an effort to contain spread of the infection in Srinagar district, the administration constituted and activated 21 medical teams for holding house-to-house inspections and collecting data in and around the area where the infected person resides, they said.

“The medical teams went to all houses within 300 metres radius surrounding the house of the infected person and conducted relevant investigations to ascertain whether someone had come into contact with the infected person,” they added.

The officials said the medical teams, each of which comprises three professionals including a doctor, were well-equipped with personal protective gear and items and diagnostic equipment to ensure safe conduct of the exercise and correct investigations.

Revenue and Srinagar Municipal Corporation officials assisted the medical teams during the exercise and magistrates were also part of the efforts to ensure its smooth conduct.

The administration also conducted “thorough sanitization” of the entire area. “Well-equipped teams of Srinagar Municipal Corporation went in and around disinfecting the entire area.”

Deputy Commissioner Srinagar Shahid Iqbal Chaudhary said the exercise in the area was being conducted based on the global standard operating procedure in this matter and the aim was to contain spread of the infection.

Chaudhary urged all the people, who might have come in contact with the patient after her return from Saudi  Arabia on Monday, to report at the nearest health facility or contact the control room.

“It’s important that people who come in contact with coronavirus positive case(s) should immediately report to nearest health facility or our 24×7 control room at 01942457552 or 01942457543 or 9419028251 or 9419028242 or 9419014723,” he said while urging that the appeal must not be ignored.

Regional Transport Officer (RTO) Kashmir has imposed a ban on all forms of public transport within Srinagar city while also banning entry of any public transport vehicle from adjoining districts of the summer capital.

Chaudhary said the restrictions on the movement and assembly of people was to prevent spread of the virus.

“The restrictions on public gatherings, assembly and movement in many areas are aimed at avoiding spread of any likely cases,” he tweeted and urged people to cooperate.

The deputy commissioner warned against any rumour mongering about coronavirus.

“Rumours and unverified information shared on social media will certainly attract strict action. Let’s act like responsible citizens. Every information and advisory will be shared officially,” he said.

The authorities have also suspended the train services on the Banihal-Srinagar-Baramulla axis after reports of overcrowding of trains which was making screening of the passengers difficult.

While educational institutions across Kashmir have already been closed, the authorities in the city have shut down almost all public places including gymnasiums, clubs and restaurants.

Most of the 10 districts in the Valley have restrictions in place on assembly of four or more persons under Section 144 CrPC.

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