He skipped the mandatory quarantine period, roamed freely in his hamlet, played cricket with his folks back home and met who’s who in town, before emerging Kashmir’s potential Covid-19 powder keg.
On prime time TV debates in the Indian media, he is articulate and outstanding. He silences his co-panelists with his high pitched voice, but when this 22-year-old youth returned to Valley from Delhi in the third week of March, silence is what he preferred to hide his travel history.
For the two following weeks, he mingled with locals, played cricket with the other boys of the village until he tested positive on April 9, shocking everyone in the small hamlet of Muqami Shahwali in the frontier Kupwara district.
“We are staring at a disaster,” Ghulam Mohammad, a local told Kashmir Observer.
“The whole village will be in the grip of coronavirus if just a few of the samples taken from odd dozen people by the medical team on Saturday turn positive.”
The youth, Ghulam Mohammad says, had been hyper active in the village meeting families, friends and relatives after his arrival from New Delhi.
“Today, the village is in danger because of the negligence of the youth and his family,” the Kupwara man said.
“Had he not concealed his travel history and gone under quarantine, everyone would have been free of fear here. He might turn out to be a super spreader.”
Like Ghulam Mohammad, many other villagers are reeling under fear of getting infected by the dreaded disease. They also questioned silence of the infected youth’s mother, an Asha worker who shielded her son in hiding the travel details, despite knowing the repercussions.
“It was only after he started showing Covid-19 like symptoms that her mother sensed the gravity of the situation,” says Altaf Ahmad, another local.
“By that time, however, it was already too late.”
He also claimed that the youth drove straight to his native village without undergoing mandatory screening on his arrival at the Srinagar Airport, putting villagers and more importantly his family to risk.
“Government says everyone coming from other parts of the country and abroad was being quarantined. Then how was he let off?” Ahmad asked.
The locals further said that the youth was taken to Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Putushai and put under quarantine on April 6, seventeen days after his arrival. They alleged the youth managed to leave from the centre next morning and only returned after spending a day outdoors.
Two days later, he was tested Covid-19 positive plunging the small village in fear and panic, they said. The youth is also said to have met police and civil administration officials after his return to village.
The locals also apprised two senior officials in the LG administration about the looming threat of community transmission citing the activities of the youth in the village.
“While he has tested Covid-19 positive, he has hid details of travel and on top of it he has been playing with local youth and visiting people from last more than 20 days. The act of the youth tantamount to putting precious lives of hundreds into danger,” reads a letter written by locals to two senior officers.
“He may survive and come as triumph over the raving invisible enemy but what about those who are frail and feeble and may not survive the attack by the coronavirus,” the letter says, while insisting tough action against the youth and his mother.
The locals also urged the senior administration officers to probe the delay caused by the district administration in taking action in this regard.
The mounting public pressure, the locals said prompted the district administration to take action against the youth and his mother.
“Case filed and investigation underway. Asha worker disengaged already for negligence,” Deputy Commissioner Kupwara, Dr Anshul Garg told Kashmir Observer.
On Saturday, police released a statement after three more cases surfaced in the district, two of them grandmothers of the Covid-19 youth.
“Police Kupwara registered case FIR No.70 US 269, 270, 271 against one person for concealing travel history. Accused has travel history of Delhi Nizamuddin, had reported back to his home on 22nd March and kept roaming in his immediate neighbourhood for more than 15 days,” the statement said.
It added that the youth’s residential area has now been declared as red zone.
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