Runaway Surge

WITH daily coronavirus cases on Tuesday reaching a record 4650, Jammu and Kashmir government has extended the lockdown till May 10 in five districts of J&K. The districts are Srinagar, Baramulla, Budgam, Srinagar and Jammu. Kashmir Valley itself continues to post a new record every day. Out of 4650 cases, Kashmir Valley had 3187 cases and Jammu 1463.

Also, 37 COVID-19 deaths have been reported, so far 25 from Jammu Division and 12 from Kashmir Division. J&K has now 37,302 active positive cases to date while 1,52,109 have recovered. The UT has recorded 2458 deaths so far. As already reported there has been 700 percent rise in new infections in the UT and that too in a matter of few weeks. Going forward, the curve is unlikely to flatten, despite the strict “corona curfew” and its extension. The reason for this is that there’s now a full blown community transmission. So, the spread could mainly be triggered inside homes, where people don’t use masks and sit close to one another. And with the new variant of the virus alleged to be thrice more infectious than that of last year, it will take a community driven effort than the government measures alone to reign it in. And as we have time and again advocated in this space, the lockdown extended beyond a point will do more harm than good. More so, in a place that has largely been shut down over the last two years. So, the government has to think of more imaginative ways to get a grip on the runaway pandemic.

The administration needs to focus its attention on the stupendous challenge on hand. Any further rise in the cases could plunge Kashmir into a deeper chaos. That is, if it hasn’t already. So, the government has to step up. It doesn’t have many options. For example, the lockdown can’t be extended endlessly after the economic devastation it caused last year. Government has to resort to innovative measures to ensure that the rising curve of the cases is flattened and that the healthcare infrastructure is upgraded to deal with the fresh cases. This can be done if the administration involves civil society and NGOs in the effort. Under the circumstances, a deliberately promoted culture of self-restraint by people and the widespread observance of the Standard Operating Procedures will see us through. Second, the administration has to take firm action against the people who go out without masks or participate in large gatherings. These are the only pragmatic and hopefully helpful tools to tackle the contagion. That too, with least damage to the economy.

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