Covid Hike and A Hashtag: Inside Bandipora’s Viral Campaign

Photo: Manzoor Mir

A home to second most Covid-19 positive cases in Kashmir after Srinagar, Bandipora is witnessing a raging online campaign presently. With pandemic threatening to spread its tentacles in town, the locals have joined hands to demand ventilators and a health center.

Auqib Javeed 

As a strong community Covid-19 combat response, a borough known for its 3As—Alim, Adab, Aab (Knowledge, Culture, Water)—is currently spearheading an intense online campaign to press administration’s attention towards the health crisis on the ground.

With novel coronavirus already claiming five lives in Jammu and Kashmir, the residents of North Kashmir’s Bandipora took to social networking sites demanding ventilators.

Termed as ‘the main supportive treatment’ for patients in the critical stage of Covid-19, ventilators assist or replace respiratory functions, pumping oxygen into the blood for vital organs.

With already one death and 80 Covid-19 positive cases, the Bandipora district has recorded highest number of cases after Srinagar.

According to state stats, the union territory has 208 ventilators. However, in Bandipora, with over 3.92 lakh population (according to 2011 census), there’s not a single ventilator.

With hashtag #VentilatorsforBandipora, the netizens urged the government to pay attention towards the district.

“While whole world is looking for a vaccine for Covid-19, Bandipora residents are still waiting for a ventilators and the hospital,” said Mehran Sofi, a young social activist who’s leading the campaign.

“Are we children of a lesser God?”

A hospital without a ventilator, said Shahri Shahid, another local campaigner, is a man without legs—“particularly at this point of time when there is a dire need of ventilator”.

The campaign has also recreated the demand for the hospital, which remains elusive till date.

Notably, the construction of new district hospital at Nusoo area of Bandipora is going on from last 14 years. The authorities have missed over a dozen deadlines to complete the project.

The district has two health blocks – one at Hajin and another at main Bandipora headquarter.

More than 50 positive cases for Covid-19 have been reported from Hajin block alone.

The first case in the district was detected on March 24 when a 22-year-old local returned from Andra Pradesh. He developed Covid-19 symptoms and was admitted in GMC Baramulla.

Around 12 villages have already been declared as Red Zones in district Bandipora, including Parrey Mohalla, Gund Jehageer, Naidkhai, Chandergair, SK Bala, Batagund, Madwan and Hakbara in Hajin Tehsil, and Gund-Dachina, Gundqaiser, Kunan and Pethkoot in Bandipora Tehsil.

The authorities have so far failed to trace out how did the virus spread in the Hajin- the worst hit belt in Bandipora.

“We’re currently focusing on 3 things: Tracing, Isolating and Treating,” said Dr Nabeel, nodal health officer in Hajin. “How did it spread will be investigated later.”

A total 734 samples have been collected for Covid-19 testing in the district so far.

Of which 75 have tested positive, 613 negative and results of remaining 43 are still awaited, while 10 patients have recovered, official figures reveal.

496 people have been put under administrative quarantine, while 3297 persons are under home quarantine.

Some 21 locals linked to “Delhi Hotspot” were tracked by the surveillance team, the officials said. “Three of them came positive.”

However, amid the ongoing online campaign, Shahbaz Ahmed Mirza, Deputy Commissioner Bandipora, told Kashmir Observer that the administration has sent the requisition for five ventilators.

However, an official from the health department told Kashmir Observer that they don’t have space for ventilators as the new hospital is still under construction.

In response to a tweet regarding the start of new district hospital, the magistrate said, “The hospital building would’ve been ready by now, had it not been for present pandemic.”

The officials further said the district doesn’t have a single isolation centre for Covid-19 patients. They are presently being shifted to either Baramulla or Srinagar for isolation.

However, the district-level Covid-19 management mess doesn’t end there.

Earlier, Kashmir Observer on March 25 reported how the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Bandipora ordered his deputy to ferry a Covid-19 patient from GMC Baramulla to Dak bungalow Bandipora.

Complying with the orders, Block Medical Officer (BMO), Dr Asif went to the hospital and transported the patient in his official vehicle, in violation of Standard Operating Procedure.

“I was returning from home when the CMO asked me to pick up a patient from Baramulla hospital,” Dr Asif told Kashmir Observer. “I followed the orders of my senior.”

The BMO had to put himself along with over dozen of health employee in self-isolation for over 10 days.

On April 7, the BMO during a routine check-up in a local quarantine centre had to face angry attendants, who alleged that their patients are not getting good medical care.

The people under administrative quarantine complain of poor medial facilities.

“We are 5 persons in room, with one washroom,” said a 25-year old youth, who is currently under quarantine in Chaternar centre. “We’ve been put here with no proper medical facilities.”

While accepting lapses in handling the viral situation, Dr Tajamul Husain, Chief Medical officer Bandipora, said that his team is trying its best “to break the chain”.

After nine more persons were tested positive for Covid-19 in the district, Dr Tajamul said, rigorous contact tracing is going on in the areas from where these new cases have been reported.

He said that rapid response teams were on job from last three days after new cases were reported and all the preventive measures were being taken to further prevent spread of the virus.

“We have started sample collection in Red and Buffer zones rigorously,” Dr. Tajamul said.

“Also, the administration is going to start a low-risk isolation centre with 60 beds in the district. Once it will be functional, only those patients will be shifted to Srinagar or Baramulla who need the ventilator support.”

Clearly, this official acceptance has vindicated the online campaign for ventilators in Bandipora today.





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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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