Why night curfew won’t curb COVID-19 in Kashmir?

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With the summer approaching, Kashmiris prepared to finally spend more time outdoors as the harsh winters are behind. But the pandemic that had ebbed during the winter is undergoing a resurgence in the Valley.

Laboratory confirmed cases of infections in Kashmir have reached 1,568 and just two more away from exhausting its capacity dedicated to treating COVID-19. The resurgence also coincides with the outbreak of the pandemic in the Valley.

So far, Srinagar has remained the worst-hit district in Kashmir. On 1 March, 342 cases were detected in the city which increased by 165 percent by the end of the month to 908 active-positive cases.

Still, tourism promotion events in recent weeks witnessed a brazen violation of social distancing as large gatherings were allowed to attend the events, without masks. If that wasn’t enough, the first few days of April were grimmer, the number of travelers visiting Kashmir, only added to the miseries of commoners.

Amid a massive surge in COVID19 cases, 460 travellers tested positive for the viral infection during the first week of April in the Kashmir division while 341 of them arrived in Srinagar.

The massive inflow of travellers carrying the infection is only the tip of the iceberg as so far only air-bound travellers are tested while those coming via road are not tested.

A local news gathering agency reported that there are more than ninety patients admitted in Srinagar’s Chest Diseases Hospital, including fourteen travelers and nine tourists. All seventeen ICU beds in the hospital, among the exclusive facilities for the management of the covid-19 patients, are already occupied, they said.

As per officials has 104 COVID-19 dedicated beds while among the 87 total isolation beds, 54 are occupied by the patients, 48 of whom are on oxygen support.

Pulomonologist and department head at the hospital Naveed Nazir Shah told the agency that hospital admissions have increased more than four to five times and that the hospital was running almost at its full capacity and worryingly all beds in the ICU were occupied.

But the Jammu and Kashmir administration’s response to the resurgence made everyone scratch their heads in wonder: Kashmir that has virtually no night life would be under strict curfew between 10 pm and 6 am, ordered Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha.

Sinha directed the administration to impose curfew in urban areas of eight districts affected witnessing a second wave of COVID-19. Other than Srinagar and Jammu, the night curfew will be imposed in Udhampur, Kathua, Baramulla, Budgam, Anantnag and Kupwara.

The order was ridiculed on social media. “Please tell him Kashmir shuts down at 8 p. m and there is no need to impose curfew. We don’t have night clubs and night partying here. You can’t simply replicate the Mumbai model in Srinagar. Better shutdown the tulip garden. Or that is important to show normalcy?” senior journalist Basharat Masood tweeted in response to Sinha.

Some reminded the Governor of the already existing night curfew in Kashmir owing to the conflict and unpredictable nature of government forces. “Night curfew for Kashmir wr even dogs are scared to move during the night.” Shah Haseeb tweeted.

The non-application of mind in aping the practice of metropolises with bustling nightlife also opened the floodgates of memes. Some compared the Governor to the character of Javed Jaferi in the comedy movie Dhamaal, where he praises his co-actor Arshad Warsi as very smart on all trivial acts.

“It beats logic to have restrictions at night when most of the crowds are during the day,” said influenza expert and president of Doctor’s Association of Kashmir Nisar ul Hassan in a statement. “One wonders how night curfew will help in curbing the spread, when people go about their business during the day hours.” 

“The virus does not take rest during the day and becomes active during the night. It doesn’t work like that,” Hassan added.  “It is during daytime that huge crowds are seen in markets, large gatherings are seen at social and public functions which is the main cause behind the spread of Covid-19 infection in the community.”

Instead of mimicking the practices adopted in other states, the J-K administration should instead focus on vaccination and smart lockdowns and streamline the arrival of tourists and make sure that they don’t become superspreaders.

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