Nearly 4500 cases were added up to the tally of covid-19 infections in Jammu and Kashmir in last fortnight. During the time, deaths due to the virus doubled from 107 on July 1 to 222 till July 16.
Amid this alarming surge in cases, Jammu and Kashmir is witnessing another round of lockdowns where local administrations have imposed restrictions in large parts of the districts or key areas.
The previous lockdown which continued for around 100 days offered several lessons to the J&K. One, the curbs can slow the spread of the infection but not halt it. Second, the period needed to be used to improve health infrastructure, carry on aggressively tests and tracing, and isolating suspected cases. The third was to inspire sustainable behavioural change especially on washing etiquettes, social distancing and wearing facemasks. Fourth, the lockdown has tremendous economic costs on all spheres of life as jobs dried up and livelihood of people got affected and, so did the revenue realization of the administration.
There is nothing wrong to re-impose the lockdowns to control the raging virus. However, any lockdown-related decision must be taken based on a comprehensive assessment and ensured in totality. The testing rate cannot be abysmal. Authorities cannot ignore the importance of tracing contacts. The safety measures such as social distancing and using masks are followed in breach by a lot of people.
True, the lockdown creates inconvenience to many people and adds to the already difficult economic situation but its importance for everyone is priceless. There is a need to understand by every single individual that a vicious cycle of imposition and withdrawal of lockdowns cannot be allowed to become the norm. Any exercise must also have clearly defined goals, with resources marked to achieve those goals. The government should take a lead in initiating this process and help devise a protocol. It is in this earnest that the Chief Secretary impressed upon Deputy Commissioners to cautiously declare an area or cluster as a red zone on a scientific basis and ensure strict adherence of SOPs thereafter. One cannot disagree with the Chief Secretary that there is need to aggressively carry out testing in the red or containment zones, especially of vulnerable patients including children, old aged, pregnant ladies, patients with Influenza like Illness (ILI), Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARI), co-morbid conditions, service providers, healthcare professionals and others. The procuring of nearly 700 ventilators from the Government of India is good but the administration needs to work out priorities for meeting the challenges now and cannot be delayed any longer.