Even as the government’s notification has allowed opening of places of worship, 11 employees of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) have tested positive. As per the official sources, the contact tracing of the positive patients is ongoing and many have been isolated for testing.
Keeping in line with the Unlock 3 guidelines, the Jammu and Kashmir administration has allowed the opening of religious places from August 16. However, a new set of guidelines has been issued which include restricting the number of pilgrims to the shrine, prohibiting pilgrims from touching statues, idols, and holy books, etc. The government has also made it mandatory for all the visitors to use the ‘Arogya Setu’ app. To ensure safety, a ceiling has also been introduced on the number of pilgrims visiting Mata Vaishno Devi in Katra.
“Due to the relatively large number of pilgrims visiting Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Katra, there shall be a ceiling of maximum 5,000 pilgrims per day till September 30. A maximum of 500 pilgrims per day will be permitted within this ceiling in a graded manner from outside J&K,” the UT administration said. An estimated number of 8 million people visit the shrine every year.
The opening of religious places has perpetuated fear among the locals in Jammu who are speculating a rise in the number of cases with pilgrims entering the Union Territory (UT) from other states. Speaking to NewsClick, a local, requesting anonymity, said, “We understand that the economy of our state is closing and there is a dire need to open up tourism, but it will also increase the number of infections. The government has to be very strict else we all will suffer as we know that this disease is highly contagious.”
The coronavirus positive cases in Jammu and Kashmir have been on a surge with new 482 cases recorded; taking the caseload to 26,413, as per the official data. The number of COVID-19 related deaths has also increased to 498 with eight fatalities reported yesterday till the evening. Jammu province alone witnessed 106 cases yesterday while Kashmir recorded 376 cases.
In the backdrop of the recent surge in the cases, Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam has reversed the decision of home quarantining by directing the Health Department to keep asymptomatic patients in institutionalised quarantine in Jammu. Meanwhile, in Kashmir, because of the heavy caseload, the in-charge authorities have been directed to implement strict guidelines for home quarantine of asymptomatic cases free of comorbidity.
The administration has made mandatory for the home quarantined patients to have Aarogya Setu App installed in their phones while the health authorities have been asked to provide the patients with “Government sponsored oximeters”. A ‘Red Zone Testing’ strategy is also being implemented. Under this strategy, among the affected people in the red zone areas, aged, pregnant women, patients with influenza-like illness (ILI) or severe acute respiratory infections (SARI), children, and those with co-morbidities will be given preference.
“The Rapid Antigen Test in addition to RT PCR can be used for cleansing and securing a red/containment zone by testing all probable contacts of patients and vulnerable population in the area,” Subrahmanyam had said.
Going by the district wise break-up, Jammu city has witnessed the highest positive cases (1,727) until now followed by Rajouri district with 771 cases. The lowest number of cases has been recorded in Kishtwar (175).
Below is the district-wise break up of the total number of positive cases in the Jammu division till as on August 13.
Meanwhile, Jammu continues to remain under the weekend-specific lockdown imposed on July 25 to curb the spread of the virus. The J&K administration has decided not to open schools, colleges, universities, educational, training, and coaching institutions till August 31.
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