By Sheikh Qayoom
Srinagar, July 15 (IANS) Seven COVID-19 patients succumbed on Wednesday in Kashmir as the pandemic continues to take a toll despite reimposition of restrictions in Srinagar and other districts of the valley.
As the number of corona infected patients crossed 11,000 in Jammu and Kashmir, both the number of the dead and those infected by the virus in Kashmir division is far more than in the Jammu division.
While 18 people have died in Jammu division so far, 184 have died in Kashmir.
The number of infected people is 2,388 in Jammu and it is 8,785 in the Kashmir division.
There are 816 active cases at present in Jammu division, while there are 3,939 such cases in Kashmir.
Experts attribute the exploding numbers of coronavirus cases in the valley to a number of factors, but the biggest reason listed by them is the ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude of the people in the valley.
“Accepted that more people arrive here from outside by air and by road each day. There are more security forces deployed for difficult duties on the road that makes them and the people they interact with vulnerable to the virus and yet the single most worrisome reason is the careless attitude of the people.
“Out of 10 people on the road hardly four are seen wearing masks and surprisingly among those wearing masks, one is shocked to see that half of them are wearing it on their chin.
“They leave their mouth and nose uncovered as if the virus can enter their body through the chin”, said a senior pulmonologist.
A picture showing a man wearing a polythene bag as a mask went viral on Wednesday. It was uploaded by a police officer who put the picture on his Twitter handle.
The man wearing a polythene bag as a mask had done so when he saw police checking people on the road to ensure that everybody wore a mask.
“The gentleman shown wearing a polythene bag as a mask had done so not to save his life, but to escape the fine imposed for not wearing a mask”, said another police officer commenting on the picture.
Authorities have announced a fine of Rs 20,000 for not wearing a mask in the red zones of Kashmir and Rs 2,000 for not wearing it at other places.
People throng markets, board public transport vehicles without wearing a mask and ignore observing social distancing in almost all places.
Despite announcing restrictions and punitive measures to ensure that the locals adhere to the Standard Operating Procedure, authorities have not so far succeeded in enforcing the SOP among the general public.
“This is a highly disturbing situation and unless the authorities step in with harsher measures, I am afraid the virus would have a field day claiming its victims in Kashmir”, said another doctor doing frontline warrior duties in a Srinagar hospital.
J&K’s renowned neurologist, Doctor Sushil Razdan told IANS, “I am not directly involved with attending a COVID patient or in treating them, but my knowledge of the viral spread tells me that it is an urban phenomenon that spreads to the rural areas.”
“You find that from Mumbai to Bengaluru to Delhi, Srinagar and Ladakh the graph of viral spread falls steeply. This is not just because we have more population and more testing at urban centres than in the rural areas.
“There are less open spaces in big cities and towns. The virus is washed away by wind in open spaces while in closed spaces like offices, banks and other heavily thronged closed spaces the viral can live up to a much longer time.
“The first thing we do when we enter our offices or homes is that we take off the mask. In fact, it is in closed spaces like offices, homes, hospitals, etc. that we need to wear the mask.
“If a person is riding a motorcycle without a mask, he is not so seriously exposed to the virus than those doing so in their drawing rooms and closed space in offices, meeting halls and other such places”.
The message conveyed by Razdan is relevant and needs to be followed. But, it is the authorities, who need to do better to ensure they do not allow careless spreaders to endanger the whole valley.