Kashmir Indepth

Despite hefty fines, no letup in COVID SOP violations in Kashmir

Srinagar, Aug 26 (KINS ) Despite hefty fine collection every day by the administration, there seems to be utter disregard among common masses for COVID-19 guidelines, including maintaining social distancing and wearing masks, in Kashmir valley.

Meanwhile, all educations institutes — including schools, colleges and universities — and worship places remained closed since May this year even as political rallies and government functions are being held with good number of participants without wearing masks and keeping social distancing.

Majority of the people could be seen roaming around without wearing masks in the summer capital, Srinagar, and other parts of Kashmir valley, where less than 5 per cent of the population is adhering to COVID Appropriate Behaviour.

The situation is also grim in tourist places — including world famous resorts of Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonamarg and Doodhpathri — where locals and tourists could be seen in large numbers without any regards to COVID-19 guidelines.

The administration last week extended the suspension of classwork in all educational institutes — including schools, colleges, and universities — till further order in the Union Territory. Even though educational institutes are holding online classes, students from economically weaker section allege that they are unable to attend the sessions due to non-availability of smart phones. Meanwhile, community classes at educational institutions in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district, which were started by administration, were on Monday again suspended for two weeks in view of a spike in daily COVID-19 infections.

However, people alleged that the duel policy adopted by administration is confusing as on one hand it has extended the suspension of class work for educations institutes, closed worship places and on the other hand tourists resort are open and the administration is holding functions and sports tournaments in the valley. “If the government is concerned that COVID-19 could spread if the educational institutes and worship places are reopened, it should also stop holding functions with large gatherings as they too can lead to spread of the virus,” Rameez Khan, a resident of Srinagar, told UNI.

“If you go to any tourist resort in week days or weekends, you will see most of the people roaming around without adhering to any COVID guidelines,” he added.

Similar views were expressed from people from other parts of the valley.

Officials said that police on an average collects a fine of around Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 3 lakh per day from people who violate COVID-19 guidelines in Kashmir valley. But, they said that imposition of fine is not giving the desire results as people are still violating the COVID-19 guidelines.

They said the situation is worrisome as there is prediction of a possible third wave hitting the country between September and October. J&K currently has only 1078 active positive COVID-19 cases.

An expert panel, set up by an institute under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), has predicted third wave of COVID-19 pandemic hitting the country anytime between September and October. “Children will have a similar risk as adults since paediatric facilities, doctors and equipment like ventilators and ambulances are nowhere close to what may be required in case a large number of children become infected,” the panel added.

Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) said that vaccinating children against COVID-19 holds key to reach herd immunity. “We cannot achieve herd immunity until children are vaccinated,” DAK President and influenza expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan said.

He said herd immunity is achieved when most of the population in a community is immune to the disease so that the virus no longer spreads easily from person to person.

Dr Hassan said early in the pandemic, it was estimated that around 70 per cent of people would need to be vaccinated to reach the threshold at which the virus would not freely circulate. “But the spread of more infectious Delta variant has pushed the threshold for herd immunity to well over 80 per cent and potentially approaching 90 per cent,” he added.

The DAK president said that herd immunity is unlikely to be achieved if children who constitute a significant proportion of the population are unvaccinated. “There are around 4.8 million children in Jammu and Kashmir, which represent 38.4 percent of J&K’s 1.25 crore population,” he said.

Dr Hassan said COVID-19 vaccine is required for children to return to classrooms and is important for ensuring safe learning environment in schools. “Vaccinating children is crucial to avert third COVID wave which is predicted to happen sometime in the fall of this year and is expected to affect kids the most,” he said.

He said India has approved its first indigenous pediatric vaccine from Zydus Cadila for 12 years of age and above. “While trials for younger kids are on, they might have to wait for sometime before they will be included in the vaccination schedule,” he added.



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