In last 19 days, Jammu and Kashmir has seen an addition of nearly 5200 covid-19 cases. Also 32 people have succumbed to the virus, crossing a dubious milestone of 2000 deaths during the course of the time. Jammu and Kashmir is not an exception. Most states and UTs in India are in the middle of another big surge in the infections. In J&K, the government announced temporary closure of schools for two weeks upto 9th class and for one week for students of 10-12th standard.
The decision seems to be in right earnest but pales into insignificance when government has allowed huge crowds at places especially Tulip garden. More importance is given to attract crowds to the place rather than warning people about the perils of complacency. The government order, announcing the temporary closure of schools, also read that there shall be a ceiling of 200 persons on all kinds of “social and customary gatherings, functions, subject to strict adherence of COVID protocol already prevalent in this connection.”
As former chief minister and National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah correctly said the “contrast with the hands-off approach to the crowds of visitors at the tulip garden is too stark to be ignored.”
It is important that both the local government and people are responsible for the situation. Covid-19 vaccination began in mid January but all 78 days since have been inadequately utilized. People, for their part, have been reckless to say the least, giving a deaf ear to the warnings. Markets are crowded and people are jostling for space in gardens. Beyond doubt, the vaccination must expand and eligible citizens must take the jab. The government also needs to create more awareness to mitigate any apprehensions about the vaccine. It must also be clearly brought to the public notice that there is no substitute for Covid-appropriate behaviour. People are unwilling to exercise caution and the administration must put some restrictions in place to jolt them a bit based on data and science. Hard lockdowns are not the answer for now but cannot be ruled out. The situation demands proactive approach rather than being continuously reactive. The government by only banking on vaccination or medical infrastructure is doing no good when people are not ready to accept the reality. The Jammu and Kashmir runs the risk of going down path of some states which are now finding hard to control the curve. While administration understandably seems cautious because of the economic implications of restrictions but an unchecked public health crisis will end up taking a much heavier toll.