The abrupt lockdown has also disrupted healthcare services. As grave as the COVID-19 is, it should never have been allowed to overshadow the treatment of other illnesses. From the outset, the Jammu and Kashmir administration should have factored in possible hindrances in routine healthcare, of which vaccination of children is but one important part. The administration’s attitude towards this public health emergence can be summed up in the disbelief of some members of the advisory committee—to guide the administration on its COVID-19 response—that such an initiative was even taken up. To what extent is medical advice being heeded to now, however, is another matter.
Already, the healthcare infrastructure is in shambles. Hospitals have run out of beds, the supply of oxygen is barely sufficient, and despite a three-month head start, ventilators were not procured on priority. It begs the question whether the health and wellbeing of J-K’s more than twelve million residents is even a priority for the administration that is busy propagating success stories while the general public suffers because of the lack of healthcare—in most rural areas, local hospitals do little beyond administering basic first aid. This was an ongoing crisis that was merely compounded by the pandemic. There is no denying that health workers on the frontline are operating under tremendous pressures but they must realise that the pandemic is a calamity as great as bureaucratic ineptitude, to cover which they have issued a gag order issued for health workers. Health workers must do a course correction on their silence and speak out on where our response to the pandemic has gone wrong. They owe it to their profession and to the society.