Srinagar: Taking a cue from the ongoing crisis in several parts of the country, various NGOs and civil volunteer groups have formed response teams while the threat of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic looms over the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
The networks of volunteers and social welfare groups have also begun to augment supplies of critical provisions like oxygen units as the number of cases are surging in the region, indicating an escalation in healthcare requirements the coming days.
“We are witnessing through (social media) videos how people are gasping for oxygen and people are dying on the roads. We don’t want that to happen here and we are preparing for that,” president of Athrout NGO, Bashir Ahmad, told NewsClick, while talking about the preparations they have made.
In the region, as many as 1.6 lakh cases have been reported so far since the pandemic broke out last year. On Sunday, April 25, the authorities reported 2,381 new positive cases with 848 from Jammu Division and 1,533 from Kashmir Division. Also, over 30 deaths have been reported in the last 24 hours taking the total number of COVID-19 deaths to 2,156 including 1,342 in Kashmir division and 814 in Jammu division.
As the number of cases increased from the past week, the authorities in Kashmir imposed a 34-hour-long curfew till Monday morning as a ‘preventive measure’ to stop the disease from spreading. The administration have also given curfew orders during the night time between 8 PM to 6 AM, a decision many claimed will not have much impact. But, irrespective of the curfew imposed, the number of persons outside have decreased significantly, especially during the evening. As per reports, many have chosen not to pray in congregations inside mosques. Those who do, often maintain the requisite social distancing.
Also read: Amid Spike in Covid Cases, J&K Schools Closed Even as Govt Events Continue, Tourism Picks up
Meanwhile, Bashir Ahmad claimed that a few decisions taken recently with regards to tourism and public events have put people in the harm’s way. “There have been many big gatherings in the Valley recently which was unfortunate. Now we have to pay the price collectively,” he said.
Authorities setting up beds at Indoor Stadium Srinagar, which has been turned into a covid centre after spike in the cases.
Athrout has around 400 oxygen units and have kept about 50 of them on standby as part of reserves for the next month, in case of another spike, he said.
In his interaction with PM Narendra Modi on ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme, Dr. Naveed Nazir, who heads the Srinagar CD hospital, however, said there is “no need to panic” this time as well.
"Amid this second wave too, if we adhere to the protective measures, the SOPs and avoid social gathering, we can carry on with our daily work and keep ourselves protected," Dr Naveed said.
The UT government has been saying that it is “adequately equipped” with medical supplies to deal with the spike including in terms of oxygen capacity, a claim which has been refuted as ‘unconvincing’ by many in the state.
The administration, too, has been making preparations and have established about six new COVID-19 centres for emergency in the wake of spike in cases. All public parks which were until recently open to tourists from outside have been ordered shut on Sunday till further orders, according to an official spokesperson.
Khushboo Mattoo, who is part of a crisis response initiative team #SOSJK that helps a team of around 200 volunteers across J&K, said that as the oxygen and medicine situation in Delhi looked worse, she realised there is a need to intervene in J&K.
"We have to step up... It is important to be scared right now and we are working 19 hours a day to collect data of medical supplies, equipment, ambulances and also food supplies in case the situation worsens," she told NewsClick.
Mattoo said that there is a "dearth of medicines" and that there is need to create emergency makeshift facilities to deal with the crisis. "This is no competition and there should be more citizen oriented initiatives even at basic locality levels to respond to such calamity," she added.