Srinagar: The authorities in the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir on Friday reimposed curfew in various localities of Srinagar city in view of the increase in COVID-19 cases, a decision that has triggered concern among residents, especially traders and businesspersons.
Restrictions have been imposed in the municipal ward areas of Zadibal, Hawal, Alamgari Bazar, Kathi Darwaz and Lal Bazar for 10 days by the Srinagar district administration. However, all essential services, including incidental services and activities needed for the smooth functioning of these activities, shall be allowed to continue both in the public and private sectors, it said.
“Groceries, vegetables, meat and milk shops shall remain open and functional to ensure provisioning of essential supplies from 7 a.m to 11 a.m. There will be no hindrance to the smooth movement of goods and essential supplies,” the administration said.
The restrictions do not bar the movement of government officials, and construction works in these areas. The authorities have also said that the vaccination drive would continue even in the containment zones.
The restrictions have been enforced to close all educational institutions, shopping complexes, markets, restaurants, sport complexes, gyms and parks. A ceiling of 20 and 10 persons, respectively, has been fixed for weddings and funerals. At the same time, “no social gatherings whether indoors or outdoors shall be allowed in the areas where the lockdown had been reimposed”, according to fresh orders.
On Friday, the Union territory reported 148 new cases of COVID-19, of which 120 cases and one death were reported from the Kashmir division. Of these, 96 cases –the highest in any district – were reported from Srinagar city, which has witnessed 838 deaths of the total 4,420 deaths reported in the region since the pandemic hit in March last year.
Even as healthcare experts are yet to declare the rise in cases as part of the third wave of COVID-19 in Jammu and Kashmir, the lockdown in parts of Srinagar has unsettled people, especially traders and businessmen.
“I have spent all my savings to survive in the past three years and even taken loan to pay for raw materials. I hope the government finds a solution other than another lockdown because it will be too difficult to survive this time,” Shadab, a shop owner in Srinagar, said.
The traders' fraternity in the region has been battling regular losses since 2019 when authorities in the region had imposed a curfew for the first time in August, when abrogation of Article 370 was carried out. Since then, three lockdowns have been imposed, dealing back-to-back blows to their livelihoods.
“The primary responsibility lies with people who have to take COVID safety measures, otherwise businesses will suffer more. We have been suffering since floods hit our region in 2014. If the third wave hits us, it will be disastrous, as we are already on the brink of closing down,” Sheikh Ashiq, president of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries, said.
The bank loans and debts have already resulted in closure of several business units. Due to the worsened situation, industrialists are demanding a "debt-reduction package" for all Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise accounts and Non- Performing Assets or bad loans.
According to business chambers of both Jammu and Kashmir, the Union territory suffered losses worth over Rs 10,000 crore due to the lockdown imposed during the second wave in March this year alone.