JAMMU – The Jammu and Kashmir administration has declared the coronavirus infection an epidemic and said any person who refuses to follow orders on prevention or treatment of the disease would be dealt under the law.
This was declared in a four-page notification issued by the Financial Commissioner, Health and Medical Education Department, Atal Dulloo, following an order of Lt Governor Girish Chander Murmu.
So far, three patients have tested positive for coronavirus in the Union Territory, where normal life virtually came to a standstill with the government imposing prohibitory orders banning assembly of more than four persons in almost all districts to counter the disease’s threat.
The government has already closed down all educational institutions, multiplexes, cinema halls, shopping malls, food courts, parks and gardens, clubs and road side eateries till March 31.
Announcing the regulations under the Epidemic Diseases Act, the notification said the Jammu and Kashmir Epidemic Diseases (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020, would come into force with immediate effect and will have jurisdiction over the entire Union Territory.
“Surveillance personnel have been empowered to enter any such premises after giving reasonable opportunity to the owner or occupier for the purpose of surveillance of instances of fever or cough or respiratory difficulty, enquire into or undertake physical examination as they think fit, the notification read.
“Such persons shall be bound to cooperate and render all possible assistance to facilitate such surveillance, inspection, enquiry and examinations, it read.
Surveillance personnel, who will be designated by districts magistrates, have been empowered to direct, arrange or put suspected persons under home quarantine or escort them to an institutional quarantine facility or isolation facility, the notification read.
However, it said if the owner or occupier(s) of any premises or any individual suspected or confirmed with COVID-19, refuses to take measures for prevention or treatment including home quarantine, institutional quarantine or isolation, or refuses to cooperate” with surveillance personnel and authorities, they will invite the “provisions of Section 133 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974) , it read.
The magistrates can also pass any other coercive action as they deem necessary and expedient for enforcing the cooperation and assistance.
However, in the case of a minor, such order will be directed to the guardian or any other adult member of the family, the notification read.
“Anyone who contravene any of the provisions of these regulations or disobeys an order and obstructs performance of functions, duties and responsibilities entrusted upon any authority under these regulations, shall be deemed to have committed an offence under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (45 of 1860), it read.
DAK Calls For Extensive Coronavirus Testing
Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Tuesday urged health authorities in Kashmir to ramp up testing for the novel coronavirus that has so far killed at least 7,468 people and infected 186,669 worldwide.
“We need to be aggressive in testing,” said DAK President Dr Nisar ul Hassan.
“The key to prevent the spread of the disease is early detection of cases and that is by way of extensive testing,” he said.
Based on data, Dr Nisar said most of the cases of the novel coronavirus, around 80% are mild and they don’t turn up and go unreported. We need to find them and test them.
“If we don’t expand testing, how can we say there is no community spread,” he said.
“Not only widespread testing will effectively reduce the risk of transmission of the virus in the community, but it will also save lives,” Dr Nisar said.
“It was because of high rate of testing in South Korea that the mortality among those infected was quite low (0.6%),” he added.
Dr Nisar said under the new guidelines, anyone with symptoms compatible with the new coronavirus qualifies for diagnostic testing depending on the doctor’s judgment.
“Clinicians should use their acumen to determine whether a symptomatic patient needs a test,” he said.
He said the testing should be prioritized for hospitalized patients, elderly and those with underlying medical conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic lung disease and cancer.
“But, doctors should rule out other causes of respiratory illness particularly flu,” he added.
“Earlier, testing was restricted to those persons who had history of travel to the affected area or who had a history of close contact with a confirmed or a suspected case of novel coronavirus,” said Dr Nisar.
“The new virus is diagnosed by collecting nasal and throat swab from suspects and after triple packing, samples are shipped on ice packs to the designated labs for testing,” Dr Nisar said adding “it is vitally important that doctors use personal protection equipment while taking samples from suspected patients.”
Govt Bans Entry Of Foreign Tourists In Kashmir
The Jammu & Kashmir government has banned entry of foreign tourists to Kashmir as a precautionary measure in view of the coronavirus outbreak around the world.
Advisor to the Lt. Governor Baseer Ahmad Khan has issued necessary orders in this regard, an official spokesperson said.
Secretary Tourism, Director Tourism and DCs have been asked to ensure implementation of the order with immediate effect.
NDMA Invoked In Ramban
In a drastic precautionary measure against the spread of coronavirus, Jammu and Kashmir’s Ramban district authorities on Tuesday ordered suspension of public transport in the hilly district and closure of hotels and restaurants along the Jammu-Srinagar national highway till March 31.
The Ramban district magistrate issued the order invoking provisions of the National Disaster Management Act.
The traffic on the national highway, connecting Jammu and rest of the country from the Valley and beyond, however, was exempted from the suspension order.
The highway traffic does not fall under the purview of the order. The highway traffic will continue to ply,” Ramban, District Magistrate Nazim Zia Khan told PTI.
“There is free interaction between local residents and travellers coming from outside, especially in Ramban town (where the commuters stop for lunch and tea) and this order is basically a direct repercussion of that,” explained Khan.
He said the highway needs to be kept open for essential supplies to reach Srinagar.
With the suspension of public transport in the entire district, Ramban has become the first district in the entire Union Territory of J&K to resort to such a measure.
The suspension of the public transport has not been reported from elsewhere either in the country, though the authorities have been advising people to avoid unnecessary travels.
We felt the need to shut markets (along the highway) during the day time and after the dusk so that commuters do not stop enroute to their destination. It is a sort of preventive measure against coronavirus, he said.
The district magistrate also ordered closure of all markets from 10 am to 5 pm and 7 pm to 7 am in the district till March 31, giving a three-hour window in the morning and two hours in the evening for the district natives to buy their essentials.
These measures are the part of efforts to counter the threat posed by the coronavirus infection, he said.
He said the local bus stand usually remains “too much packed” allowing “too much of social interaction” between local residents and people coming from different parts of the country.
The local transport was stopped to deter people from travelling to Ramban town during the day time. We have to discourage free interaction till the threat of the epidemic persists,” Khan said advising people to avoid social gathering for their own health and the safety of other people.
The district magistrate issued the order despite no one found corona-positive in the district and no one put under isolation either in the district, which though have set up set up isolation facility.
The neighbouring Jammu district, however, has reported three corona positive cases.
In his order issued under National Disaster Management Act, Khan said no public transport including buses, mini-buses and cabs would operate in the district till March 31.
All markets including Batote, Ramban, Chanderkote, Banihal, Gool, Sangaldan, Rajgarh, Khari, Ukhral and Ramsoo shall operate from 7 am to 10 am and 5pm to 7 pm till March 31, the order read.
It said although all the hotels and restaurants have been closed in district Ramban, in case of any extreme urgency, the guests and the hotel owners have to get permission from the concerned station house officers.
It shall be mandatory for the guest to fill up a self-declaration form which shall be provided by the hotel owner, the order said.
The district magistrate also directed Ramban’s senior superintendent of police, all sub-divisional magistrates, tehsildars and station house officers to ensure that the order is implemented in letter and spirit.
Public at large is also being informed that section 51 of the Disaster Management Act provides for penalties in case a person obstructs any officer or employee in the discharge of his functions or refuses to comply with any direction given under this Act. Any violation will therefore lead to prosecution under section 51 of the Act, the order warned.
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