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1 lakh COVID cases predicted in J&K, study says UT’s ‘proactive approach’ kept crisis under control

File Photo: KM/Umar Ganie

Srinagar: The administration had predicted more than one lakh cases of COVID-19 in J&K however a recent study claims that proactive handling of the crisis helped the union territory defeat the estimates.

The study ‘COVID 19: Preparedness and Response by Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir for Containment of Pandemic’ authored by Dr Sheikh Mohammad Saleem, Dr Ruqia Quansar, and Dr Mariya Amin Qurieshi from Department of Community Medicine of Government Medical College, Srinagar evaluated the containment measures taken by various departments under the chairmanship of Lieutenant Governor, G C Murmu.

According to it, the response measures put in place for COVID-19 containment have proved to be somewhat successful as “the reported cases are much less than the numbers predicted earlier.”

“While the pandemic was still distant threat to the UT, extra staff was recruited on a war footing for household surveillance of all the students for any symptom of Covid-19 or foreign travel history. On March 13, 2020, a bold decision to close all the schools was taken as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of COVID-19 among the masses,” it says.

Community Health Expert, GMC Srinagar and co-author, Dr Sheikh Mohammad Saleem said that the administration had predicted “more than one lakh” patients to be affected by the coronavirus in the UT.

“However, with the coordinated efforts of various departments and early preparedness, we have so far been successful in limiting the number of cases to a great extent,” he said.

The study points out that at district level, surveillance teams were constituted and assigned relevant jobs, and the police department was assigned to help the teams.

“The district surveillance teams formed were headed by District Commissioner (DC)… There was the formation of nodal officers for each district along with the identification of quarantine and isolation centers in respective districts,” it says.
The municipal corporations and committees of all the districts, as per the study, were directed to carry out large-scale sanitation drives to promote cleanliness and sanitation.
“Along with informative hoardings, municipal corporations procured state of the art equipment and technology for disinfecting places, such as markets, religious places, parks, and busy areas of the town,” it says.

Dr Salim Khan, Nodal Officer, GMC Srinagar said that after Kerala, J&K came up with the standard operating procedures (SOPs) on how to deal with the pandemic.
“It was on February 3 when we submitted the first draft of standard SOPs to Financial Commissioner Health and Medical Education. Although, the first case was reported on March 18, we had already earmarked separate space for isolation early on in every GMC associated hospital,” he said.
He pointed out that the procedures for COVID -19 sampling and collection also began beforehand at the virology laboratory at GMC, Srinagar.
“The laboratory was already there. We made it functional from March 14,” he said.
He added that several training workshops were conducted on how to deal with the patients amid pandemic.
Epidemiologist Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme, Kashmir Dr Manzoor Qadri said the administration has successfully trained 723 laboratory technicians so far.
“Our efforts can be gauged by the aggressive testing that is being done at present. It is because of our increased manpower that every day a total of 2,500 samples are collected from 10 districts,” Dr Qadri said.
Chairman of Public Health and Sanitation Workers, Tanveer Hussain Pathan said that even with limited manpower, the SMC has been regular with fumigation and disinfection drives.
“We have staff strength of 3,567 sanitation associates against the required strength of 12,000. Despite that, we leave no room for complaints. It was before the first case of Covid-19 was detected here that SMC had procured the WHO recommended chemicals and adequate number of shoulder mounted sprayers from outside the valley,” he said.