At a time when the government is imposing restrictions on all educational and other commercial activities on weekends following a rise in Covid-19 cases, the government of Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday inaugurated a winter sports event at tourist destination Doodhpathri in the Budgam area of Kashmir.
In the past eighteen days, the Kashmir region has reported 3004 Covid-19 positive cases while 16 people have died, as per the government data. However medical experts believe the number of infection cases reported is highly undercounted as most of the people do not get tested.
Principal Government Medical College Jammu Dr Shashi Sudan as per a news agency on Wednesday said that the current positivity rate is very high and every third person in Jammu and Kashmir is found positive for Covid-19.
The decision to hold the event came two weeks after the government announced a night curfew from (9 pmto 6 am) in a bid to contain the spread of the infection. The government has also imposed restrictions on the non-essential activities in the region.
Doodhpathri Development Authority (DDA) has been holding the winter sports event at picturesque Doodhpathri in the Budgam area of Kashmir region at the time educational institutions have been closed amid an upsurge in Covid-19 cases. However, the decision to close institutions received wide opposition from different quarters.
Experts said the event has the “potential to contribute” to the spread of the virus as earlier several students of a private school tested positive during a winter camping at Kashmir’s famous ski resort Gulmarg.
Last week around 70 students and officials, who were part of the skiing camp at ski resort Gulmarg organized by Jammu and Kashmir Youth Services and Sports (YSS) tested positive for Covid-19.
The decision comes as a surprise given the region that is hosting the event remains the worst-hit in Jammu and Kashmir and has 13,497 active-positive cases, with a total death tally of 2347. On 1 January, there were 927 active positive COVID19 cases in Kashmir, which has increased by more than 1355 percent to date.
The Winter Sports Event in Doodhpathri will continue during the winter as per Director Tourism.
Given the apprehension that Covid-19 has come up with, Director Tourism Kashmir Dr. G N Itoo said, “at Doodhpathri there is no festival being held but a flag-off ceremony of the event under proper SoPs (Standard Operating Procedures).”
Itoo said, “it is an outdoor activity where there is no possibility for large gatherings. “It is not a festival as such. We have given clear directions that there should not be any violation of Covid-19 protocols”.
Amid an upsurge in Covid-19 cases, a few hospitals in Kashmir have been directed by authorities to put on hold Out Patient Department (OPD) services and elective surgeries in the “larger public interest” till further orders.
In the past fortnight, at least forty-two doctors and paramedics of Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar and its associated hospitals have tested positive for Covid-19 on Saturday.
As per officials, around 130 doctors and 120 paramedical staff from Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (SMHS), Lal Ded (LD) hospital, Super Specialty Hospital Shireen Bagh and other associated hospitals have tested positive for Covid-19 in January.
Itoo further said that testing of visitors, tourists is being done before allowing them to enter tourist destinations, “if they are not fully vaccinated, to ensure that Covid-19 infection spread is prevented”.