Some saw it as a step towards reviving tourism, especially for Kashmir where tourist flow had come to a halt after 5 August last year when New Delhi abrogated statehood of Kashmir and revoked its special status.
The move comes amid the current pandemic continuing to spread, forcing the government to introduce precautionary measures like face masks, the use of hand sanitizers, and social distancing, both inside and outside all parks and gardens.
The administration added that visitors will also be screened for temperature before entry. Expect heavy penalties if you do not adhere to rules.
While Kashmir’s capital city Srinagar has seen a huge rush at market places and picnics following the administration’s decision to lift the restrictions following a two-month lockdown, the recent move has seen criticism from various quarters.
Till Friday, Kashmir valley recorded 148 deaths due to the deadly virus that has claimed thousands of lives in the world. And there seems to be no stopping of the COVID-19 as the cases in Jammu and Kashmir are nearing 10,000.
Given the surge in numbers and those infected include young, the doctors have expressed concern that it could have dire consequences and that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has entered into the third and dangerous phase, saying that the government should reconsider its decision of giving relaxations in the lockdown, imposed in wake of the deadly COVID-19 outbreak.
Professor Farooq Jan, Medical Superintendent at the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences while talking to a local news gathering agency Kashmir News Observer (KNO) said that the condition has changed here as more and more people even young are becoming victims of COVID-19 due to the reason that people don’t take precautions seriously.
“We have many patients here who are on oxygen support. But, those patients have other ailments as well,” he told KNO, adding that anyone can become a victim of COVID-19 if precautions aren’t followed in letter in spirit.
“At SKIMS, we have mostly elderly patients but young people too have started coming and more surge in the number of positive cases can affect our services in coming days,” he added.
The condition is similar at the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial (JLNM) hospital and other COVID-19 designated hospitals in Srinagar, “We are in the third and dangerous phase of COVID-19 and if people will not take precautions seriously, the results will be worse,” Dr. Tabasum, Deputy Medical Superintendent of JLNM told KNO.
Dr. Shifa Deva, Medical Superintendent at SKIMS Bemina (also known as JVC) said that young people are tested positive as they don’t report their symptoms on time and they only report it when the viral load is very high.
Moreover, she said the sudden saturation loss is another reason that young people are becoming victims of COVID-19.
The doctors’ alarm found support in Kashmir’s largest trade body, Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation (KTMF) President Muhammad Yaseen Khan saying that if the government takes any decision to re-impose the lockdown in the wake of rise in Covid-19 cases and deaths due to the pandemic, traders will support the move.
“There is no suggestion from me as of now. The only thing is that if the government decides to re-impose lockdown as suggested by some health experts, we will abide by the government’s decision,” Khan told KNO.
He said that life comes first then business. “We need to save lives first. If we would remain alive, only then the business will take place. So let’s see what decision the government would take,” he said.
This comes after many experts in the field stated that people were not taking any precautions to prevent the spread of the virus as even face masks are not being used by the people let alone maintaining social distancing.
Panic gripped among people after several social media users including doctors raised alarm regarding the surge in double pneumonia among young patients.
While many countries have reimposed the lockdown following the resurgence in the infection cases, some states like Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra have also followed suit in the country.
The administration’s decision to not impose restrictions and open public places instead has been called out by quarters, Mutahida Majlis-e-Ulema (MMU), an amalgam of several religious and socio-religious organisations across the valley, while appealing people to understand the gravity and seriousness of rapid spread of the COVID 19 pandemic in the valley, criticised the government’s move to open public spaces.
MMU said that it is ironic that congregations in mosques and religious places are disallowed by the authorities citing COVID, but they have opened up gardens and parks and tourist spots for people. And what is unfortunate is that people are visiting these places, oblivious of the dangers it exposes them to, their family and the society at large as places for potential COVID-19 spread.
The same was said by Jammu and Kashmir Civil Society Forum who expressed concern over the decision of authorities of opening gardens and parks and starting community classes for children at a time when there is a surge in the positive cases of the deadly pandemic of COVID-19.
JKCSF Chairman Abdul Qayoom Wani in a statement said that both the decisions of the authorities are not good enough as per the time is concerned with regard to the increasing proportion of the infection and the alarms raised by the doctors here.
Mr. Wani said all experts of medicine and even the Doctors Association have been warning about the concern of the disease and the lacunae of the people by virtue of taking the SOPs easy and roaming on roads, parks, and playgrounds like normal times.
While it remains to be seen whether a lockdown will be imposed again in the valley, the fact is that people need to follow SOPs and wear masks for years at least as said by leading experts in the world.
The comment originally appeared in our 13 – 19 July 2020 print edition.
Editor’s Note: On 12 July, Sunday, the Srinagar administration announced its decision to re-impose lockdown from Monday.