The government has liberalised most activities as per the Unlock 4 guidelines issued by the Chief Secretary of J&K in his capacity as the Chairperson, State Executive Committee.
All but a few activities are now allowed. The new guidelines also attempt to pave a way for reopening of schools in near future as 50 % of teaching and non-teaching staff is now permitted to be called to the institutions for online teaching and telecounselling in areas outside containment zones from 21 September. Also, students of classes 9 to 12 are permitted to visit their schools on “voluntary basis” for taking guidance from their teachers. Higher Education Institutions can now allow research scholars (Ph.D.) and PG students of technical and professional programmes labs and experimental works. The guidelines continue to permit business subject to norms of social distancing and other precautions such as the mandatory wearing of face masks and using hand wash or sanitizer.
The announcement comes when Covid-19 is spreading in terms of numbers and geography. Already more than 37000 cases have been confirmed officially while deaths have crossed grim milestones of 700 mark in J&K.
Even though it sounds bizarre that tougher restrictions were imposed when cases were few and activities liberalised when the number of infections are peaking, the resumption of economic activity seems imperative as it will ease the pain for many, and prevent a further steep decline in earnings and spending. At the same time the decision of relaxing the restrictions is fraught with dangers if it is not accompanied by rigorous infection control measures. As the days progress, public seems less cautious to protocols while administration appears content with the measures in place. Amid this situation, a major public health penalty cannot be ruled out and that too in near future. There is a need to follow scientific regime of identification, testing and quarantine especially when healthcare systems remain overwhelmingly lopsided. The intensive care remains meager especially in urban areas as patients continue to be referred to in higher numbers to Srinagar hospitals. It may be true that doctors have gained experience in managing the patients better than before but the reality remains that the pestilence continues to have high transmissibility as it was in the beginning. There is even a higher risk of spread as people resume their jobs and travel. There cannot be disregard safety norms, abandoning masks, and distancing norms.
The pandemic cannot yet be viewed as a thing of the past, and there is a long wait for a possible affordable cure either vaccine or drug. The impending scenarios underscore the need for wider testing and strict adherence to safety protocols.