On March 23 when experts warned of a second Covid-19 wave, the authorities in Jammu and Kashmir asked people to visit Tulip Garden in Srinagar.
On March 25 when the Tulip Garden was thrown open, Kashmir registered 131 cases and the active cases at that time were around 1200. After a week, there was a sudden rise in COVID cases when 600 positive cases were recorded daily. Experts also rang alarm bells, but the administration paid no heed.
Each day, over 10,000 people including locals and tourists would visit the Tulip Garden. Several Bollywood personalities would perform without adhering to COVID norms.
People largely criticized the authorities for keeping gardens open while shutting down schools and colleges in this region.
Seeing the situation going out of control and patients gasping for breath in hospitals, the authorities on April 25 announced closure of gardens. Till then Kashmir had recorded more than 2500 cases daily and hospitals were flooded with patients. The abrupt rise is attributed to the authorities’ decision to keep tourist spots open without enforcing any COVID protocol.
“Government did not follow the advice of the doctors. The virus could have been easily controlled as there are only two routes to enter in Kashmir, the Srinagar-Jammu highway and the airport unlike other areas of India which are connected through multiple routes,” a doctor in one of Srinagar’s said.
Elaborating further he said, “Initially, no COVID testing was done who entered Kashmir through air or road. Recently it was seen hundreds of non-local labourers were packed in buses and entered Kashmir without following COVID protocol. When a tourist comes here, he visits various places and there are more chances of spreading infection,” the doctor said.
The doctor did not want to come on record as authorities have barred doctors from speaking to the media.
Dr Mushtaq Rather, Director of Health Services Kashmir in a recent order said, “All Chief Medical Officers/Medical Superintendents/Block Medical officers of Kashmir Division are enjoined upon to issue instructions to all the staff under the administrative domain to desist from media interactions.”
The order has warned the doctors of “strict disciplinary action” and alleged that “contradictory and confusing messages” were being circulated about the virus.
As Kashmir’s poor healthcare system was struggling with the flow of patients, a number of non-government organizations (NGOs) and volunteers stepped forward to mitigate the suffering of Covid-19 victims and their families.
These local charitable organizations have been providing medical equipment including oxygen concentrators, cylinders, personal protection equipment (PPE) kits, ambulance services, financial assistance to the needy and doctors providing free medical consultation to patients.
Government had also banned medical oxygen refills to NGOs and other citizens and claimed it would prevent black marketing of oxygen in Srinagar Kashmir. However, the order was withdrawn after authorities faced criticism from all quarters who said that banning oxygen to NGOs will endanger the lives of patients in Kashmir. — Courtesy Early Times