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Authorities order strict implementation of lockdown in Srinagar as COVID-19 cases surge

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Photo-Javed Khan/Kashmir Images

Srinagar: Authorities in Kashmir began strict implementation of another phase of the lockdown on Sunday, sealing off historic Lal Chowk and 87 other areas in Srinagar which have been declared containment (red) zones after a sudden surge in COVID-19 positive cases over the past one week.

The Srinagar district administration sealed off Ghanta Ghar at Lal Chowk in an apparent bid to convey its seriousness to the masses about the strict implementation of the second phase of the lockdown.

A senior official said the steps have been necessitated due to the sudden spike in the number of coronavirus cases in the Valley in general and Srinagar city in particular as the authorities tried to ease the lockdown 1.0 restrictions.

“We were hoping that people will take necessary preventive and precautionary measures against the spread of COVID-19 but that has not happened,” he said.

The lockdown will be imposed in 88 red zones of the city from Monday, the officials said.

They said effective restrictions would be put in place in these red zones to contain the spread of the virus infection.

No activity would be allowed in these areas without a valid movement pass, they added.

The decision to reimpose the lockdown in the city was taken at a meeting late Saturday evening following recommendations of experts, the officials said.

District Magistrate, Srinagar, Dr. Shahid Iqbal Choudhary also confirmed the reimposition of the lockdown in the city.

“In view of major spike in Covid cases, we will have to carve out containment zones for effective restrictions in different areas of Srinagar. Local cooperation is solicited in best interest of public health,” he said, adding the areas have been notified.

The city has witnessed a spike in the number of coronavirus cases in the last one week. The total number of positive cases has reached 1,611, out of which 1,075 are active.

District Magistrate Srinagar while issuing orders in this regard has directed sealing off of all these 88 red zones with strict enforcement of restrictions on public movement and activities of all sorts.

Under these orders, all these areas are being sealed off at all but one entry and exit. The concerned authorities have been directed to disallow all kinds of movement and activities in these areas. No one will be allowed to move in or out of these areas after today evening, read a statement issued by the office of DC Srinagar.

Latest guidelines as notified for management of red zones will be followed in these areas with all respective teams of management and enforcement authorised and equipped with all requisites to implement them in letter and spirit, it said.

The sealing of these areas will as per the maps drawn by the administration. Each red zone will be sealed at 300-500 meters from spots where COVID-19 positive cases have been detected. Entries and exits of all these areas will be manned to ensure strict enforcement of restrictions on movement into and out of them, read the handout further.

Rosters of enforcement officials have been prepared for each of these red zones and their entries and exits. Strict instructions have been issued for disallowing movement with the essential services officials to be allowed in these areas on production of movement passes the DM’s office has issued them.

To ensure there are no violations the district administration is exploring possibilities of installing surveillance cameras at entries and exits of red zone areas. Their connection with the central control room established at the DC Office once installed is also being explored — the aim being to ensure effective enforcement of containment plan through its monitoring at more than one level.

Meanwhile, medical teams are also being deputed in each of the areas, added the handout. Concerned block and zonal medical officers have constituted teams for each area falling within their respective jurisdictions. Contact tracing and testing of positive cases will make a chief part of the role the health department officials have been assigned in these containment zones, it said.

The latter will be done in consultation with designated magistrates to ensure smooth and effective execution. Chief Medical Officer Dr Jehangir Bakhi, who has been tasked with overall management of health-related aspects of this containment plan, will be supervising efforts in this regard. ICDS officials will also form part of these teams wherever required.

The administration has also drawn a sanitisation roster as part of this comprehensive containment plan it has prepared to contain further spread of COVID-19 in the district. The Srinagar Municipal Corporation will coordinate with the Health department to execute sanitisation of these areas as and when required.

The 25 zonal committees set up earlier during the COVID-19 lockdown have been reactivated and the concerned zonal officers have taken charge of duties assigned to them as part of the containment plan. The new containment plan includes added roles and responsibilities and all these committees and officers stand briefed and equipped to handle them as required.

The Srinagar administration has also deputed a large number of magistrates to reinforce the enforcement plan that it has devised as part of this containment plan, read the handout. Officers and officials requisitioned earlier under the disaster management act have also been recalled with the concerned departments asked to relieve them forthwith.

The concerned departments have been put on high alert with directions to alert their respective staff and make them available for containment duties if and when required. Orders have been issued for cancelling of all leaves government officials in the district have availed and recalling them all for duties.

The DM has also issued orders for strictest punishments under the Disaster Management Act and other relevant provisions of the law to those violating preventive guidelines the government has issued for containment of COVID-19. He has directed for substantial fines in addition to other strict legal punishments to violators — those not wearing face masks or observing social distancing in particular.

The fine for face mask violations has been enhanced to Rs 1000 whereas the violation of social distancing guidelines in red zones will be fined at Rs 10000. There will be other punishments too.

Dr Shahid said the number of COVID-19 positive cases and red zones has seen a sharp spike in recent weeks in Kashmir division adding that violations of face mask and social distancing among other preventive guidelines is believed to be a main reason for this rise in infected cases.

He said imposing restrictions has become indispensable in view of this fact which has started to burden the healthcare infrastructure in the capital district where patients from all over the division are received for treatment adding that the aim is to prevent further spread of the disease.

He said restrictions in these notified red zones are being imposed as part of a comprehensive plan which includes as a major part tracing and testing of contacts to assess the spread of COVID-19 in these areas and ensure timely treatment of those affected and containment of further spread thereof.

The restrictions will remain in force until further orders. The restrictions from these areas will be removed as soon as their de-notification as containment zones upon receipt of no fresh positive cases after a specified period of time.

Meanwhile, after improvement in their scenario and no reporting of fresh positive cases therein the Srinagar district administration has de-notified at least 24 areas of the district earlier notified as red zones.

Jammu and Kashmir has recorded over 10,000 coronavirus cases so far. The majority of these cases are in the Kashmir Valley.

While the union territory administration had first announced a lockdown across Jammu and Kashmir on March 22 as part of its efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus, restrictions were imposed in many parts of the Valley, including in the city, on March 19 after the UT saw its first positive case from Srinagar.

The lockdown was then gradually eased in June and the markets in the city reopened after about three months in the second week of June.

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