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Fighting hard

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It has been a hard year. Last year, around this time, the crisis of COVID-19 began in Kashmir when the first few cases were detected here throwing the entire valley into a tizzy. After nearly 2000 deaths and over a lakh cases, the frontline health workers are still fighting hard to defeat the deadly virus. It was March 17 2020 when Kashmir reported its first COVID 19 positive case. A 60-year-old Saudi returned woman was tested positive. COVID-19 has claimed 1974 lives in the last one year. Of whom 730 have died in the Jammu division and 1244 in the Kashmir division. Till March 15, 5581500 COVID tests have been conducted in the union territory. Of which 5437766 samples have tested negative. Jammu and Kashmir currently has 127734 positive cases. Of whom 937 are active positive and 124823 have recovered. Till March 15, 1394138 persons have been enlisted for observation. They include 29725 people under home quarantine, 937 in isolation, and 117749 under home surveillance. Besides, 1243753 persons have completed their surveillance period. Due to aggressive testing and awareness campaigns, the cases have come down sharply in Jammu and Kashmir. Even the mortality rate has dropped considerably in the UT. Jammu and Kashmir government has de-notified 15 COVID hospitals following the drop in the positive cases. However, the fight against COVID has been very tough. From infrastructure deficiency to panic reaction, authorities initially struggled to fight the battle against the virus. The pandemic has shown that governments must increase investment in public health, from funding access to COVID vaccines for all people, to making our systems better prepared to prevent and respond to the next, inevitable, pandemic. At the heart of this is investing in universal health coverage to make health for all a reality. Second, as it will take time to vaccinate everyone against COVID, we must keep adhering to tried and tested measures that keep each and all of us safe. This means maintaining physical distance, wearing face masks, practicing hand and respiratory hygiene, avoiding crowded indoor places and meeting people outside. These simple, yet effective measures will save lives and reduce the suffering that so many people encountered in 2020. Third, and above all, we must commit to working together in solidarity, as a global community, to promote and protect health today, and in the future. We have seen how divisions in politics and communities feed the virus and foment the crisis. But collaboration and partnership save lives and safeguard societies. In 2020, a health crisis of historic proportions showed us just how closely connected we all are.  We saw how acts of kindness and care helped neighbours through times of great struggle. But we also witnessed how acts of malice, and misinformation, caused avoidable harm. Going into 2021, we have a simple, yet profound, choice to make: Do we ignore the lessons of 2020 and allow insular, partisan approaches, conspiracy theories and attacks on science to prevail, resulting in unnecessary suffering to people’s health and society at large? Or do we walk the last miles of this crisis together, helping each other along the way, from sharing vaccines fairly, to offering accurate advice, compassion and care to all who need, as one global family. The choice is easy. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and we will get there by taking the path together.