Srinagar: All schools for students up to class 9 remained closed on Monday on orders from the administration in the wake of a fresh spike in Covid-19 cases in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. These schools have been closed for two weeks while physical classes for high school students will remain suspended for at least one week, the authorities said.
“In view of rising trend in #COVID-19 cases in J&K & likelihood of young children getting infected & transmitting infection in large numbers, ALL classes up to & including Class 9 in schools will be closed for 2 weeks in all schools beginning on Monday, 5 April till 18 April, 21 in J&K (sic),” the office of Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha tweeted.
According to official figures from the UT administration, over 1500 persons have tested positive in past three days in the region, a majority of them in the Kashmir valley. Currently, there are 3955 active positive cases of which 3033 are active in the valley. Since the global outbreak of the pandemic, 1.3 lakh persons have been infected with the Coronavirus disease and over 2000 persons have died due to the virus.
The schools have been closed after close to 200 students and over two dozen staff members reported to have contracted the disease since the schools opened more than a month ago.
The administration also directed that all the gathering for social and customary functions to remain restricted to 200 persons only.
The fresh directions on the pandemic comes at a time when tourist arrivals have started to pick up in the region, increasing concerns amongst the locals. A two-day tourism function was held in Srinagar’s Tulip Garden where several local and national musicians performed as part of attracting more tourists to the destination, something over which the locals raised questions given the administrative policies in dealing with the pandemic.
“On one hand, the government is organising events where all social distancing guidelines are flouted and on the other hand, schools are being closed. The government must prioritise the responses and not create doubt amongst the general public,” Abid Ahmad, a local of downtown Srinagar said.
The governments new measures against the recent spike also drew flak on social media from netizens in view of the functions being organised around the same time.
“Shutting schools up to class 9 in Kashmir for a couple of weeks is the right thing to do but the contrast with the hands-off approach to the crowds of visitors at the tulip garden is too stark to be ignored. A well considered uniform strategy is needed for the 2nd wave of COVID,” former chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted.
While the fresh cases increase, the local businessmen and traders are also concerned about another blow to their livelihood if the government imposes another lockdown to thwart the rising cases.
Dr Suhail Naik, a child specialist and president of the doctors association in Kashmir, claimed that another lockdown was not an option. “We are already in the community transmission phase and there are multiple factors – like human behaviour, policies, seasonal variation of the virus and mutation – that play a role in the ongoing second wave of the pandemic,” Dr Naik told NewsClick.
“Instead of focusing on economy, the authorities should prioritise education,” he added.
To thwart further mass spread of the virus, Dr Naik said the authorities and people in general should rely on “discipline rather than the barricades.”