On Monday evening, Ali Mohammad* (name changed) was stopped by the police on his way to the medical store. The medical store in the village was closed and he was not allowed to buy medicines from outside the area. Despite numerous pleas, the police didn’t budge and he returned home to his pregnant wife, without medicines.
“I was told that they have received orders and they can’t allow me or any other resident of the village to leave the area,” Ali told NewsClick.
Yesterday, Kargil witnessed its first ever positive case of the novel coronavirus in Sankoo village. The entire village of about 3000-4000 people has been sealed and as per the orders, a committee has been set up for the supply of essential commodities. The administration has explained the move stating that the purpose is to “stop transmission, morbidity and mortality due to COVID-19”.
An eerie silence prevails in Sankoo village. “If this is the way administration has to contain the virus, there will be more deaths not because of COVID-19, but because of other health problems,” said Ali.
Another villager, Abdul Haji Balti, said, “We are unable to buy medicines. Medical shops have been closed. There is already shortage of resources in Kargil. The administration should have made some arrangements before containing the movement. We can’t move out. We don’t have enough food and there is a lot of panic.”
“The restriction were imposed so abruptly that I had no time to even buy blood pressure medicine for my mother,” Waziri, another resident. said.
A total of six cases have been confirmed by the Ladakh administration and the infected ones have been kept in the isolation wards.
An administrative failure?
The sealing of the village has made locals blame the administration for the steep rise in positive cases. Haji Mohammad Amin was among the group of 22 pilgrims who reached Kargil from Iran on February 29.
According to Haji, there was no screening by the Kargil administration. They were only asked to fill up a form. Hence, the rise in number of cases from Leh. The administration has been making door to door visits to check people. “Rather than keeping us in the isolation ward, we were asked to fill up a form. There was no screening as such,” said Amin.
Locals from Sankoo said that they are bearing the brunt of the Kargil administration’s failure.
“The UT Administration has failed in screening the people coming to Ladakh from outside even after February 25. Although an advisory was an issued earlier and there is no other way except Leh airport to enter Ladakh from outside. The administration must take responsibility of its failure,” said a local.
NewsClick tried speaking to Chief Medical Officer Kargil, Dr. Ibrahim, who seemingly dropped the call as soon as the question was asked.
Also read: Kerala’s Fight Against COVID-19: Roadmap for Other States