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254 dead, nearly 15K positive: Docs admit community transmission in Kashmir

File photo (KM/Umar Ganie)

Srinagar: Worst fears have come true as health experts admit community transmission of coronavirus has begun in Kashmir.

The pandemic has claimed over 254 persons so far, of whom 234 are from Kashmir division alone. For the last three weeks, there has been an unprecedented surge in Covid-19 cases in the valley. Jammu and Kashmir has more than 14000 positive cases, of which an overwhelming majority is from the valley

 

A senior doctor at SMHS hospital said that community spread has begun and there is no escaping the fact.

“The lockdowns are of no use now. What do you expect when non-local labourers are arriving? Yatra too may start soon. Plus Kashmiris too have started to take it easy. In such a scenario, how can we limit the intensity of the virus,” he said.

The doctor pointed out that the lockdown period since March was not utilized properly. “No new oxygen ports have been installed in the hospitals. There are no proper designated COVID Hospitals. Look at SMHS, it is brimming with patients, and every ward is jam-packed. There is complete chaos.” he said.

He stressed that the only option left now is that people should follow the protocols. “We have to wear a mask. Maintain six feet distance. Lockdown is only creating an economic crisis.  Further, every ventilator should have a doctor and a paramedic who can operate it otherwise it is a futile exercise,” he said.

Another senior doctor at GMC, Srinagar said that community transmission has happened long time back, it’s only that it has not been officially admitted yet.

“Srinagar reports more than 150 new cases every day. The same is the case with other districts. If you feel that we are not able to define community transmission, it is because we are not able to test everybody. If we are able to do mass testing and mass screening, the figures will speak clearly that it is a community transmission,” he said.

The doctor blamed poor planning for the crisis. “In March and April, we should have placed ventilators in district hospitals and deployed nursing staff for ICU care. That has not been done. Now we are at a stage where it will be too late, too little,” he said.

The doctor noted that instead of IgG testing, there should have been IgM testing. “IgG tells you the status of those who have acquired infection and have cured, whereas IgM testing will indicate the active infection. That is the area we have to focus on,” he said.

The doctor stressed that the elders in the community and clerics should be roped in to create awareness about COVID protocols.

President Doctors Association of Kashmir, DAK Dr. Suhail Naik said community transmission is a reality in the valley

“People are coming to hospitals with bilateral pneumonia and don’t have any travel history or contact with travellers. Though there is community transmission from north to south, we don’t have troublesome hotspots wherein a single village or the whole community has fallen sick,” he said.

Dr Naik noted that due to community transmission, cases are rising but there is still a chance to mitigate and flatten the curve.

“We have observed that a good number of people are hiding their febrile respiratory illness due to the huge psychological impact of COVID and only come to hospitals when they develop breathlessness or oxygen hunger. That is why many patients die in hospitals within 48 hours of admission,” he said.

Dr Naik maintained that the pandemic demands early detection or early identification, so that early isolation can be done which is crucial to combat Covid-19.

“Such actions are desired to slow down the spread of the virus. It is time that we must combat the virus in villages and Mohallas which is only possible when people will participate actively in the mitigation measures,” he said.

Speaking to news agency ANI, Dr. VK Monga, Chairman of IMA Hospital Board of India said every day the number of cases is increasing by more than 30,000. “This is really a bad situation for the country. There are so many factors connected with it, but overall this is now spreading to rural areas. This is a bad sign. It now shows a community spread,” he said.

According to the latest update by the Union Health Ministry, the total confirmed cases reached 10, 38,716 in the country. There are 3, 58,629 active cases and 6, 53,751 cured/discharged/migrated. A total of 26,273 deaths have been registered to date.

“Cases are penetrating down into towns and villages where it will be very difficult to control the situation. In Delhi, we were able to contain it, but what about interior parts of the country in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Goa, and Madhya Pradesh (which may be the new hotspots)? All these issues are very important and the state governments should take full care and seek help from the Central government to control the situation,” Dr Monga said.