Srinagar, Mar 11: Keeping pace with the number of locals coming home after pilgrimage to holy Shia Muslim shrines in Iran is a major issue involving prevention of the dreaded coronavirus in J&K and Ladakh.
Without agreeing to be quoted by name officials in J&K admit that dealing with the number of locals arriving from Iran is a major medical and administrative challenge.
“The safety of the people arriving back and the concern that none of them becomes a threat to the locals is of course a major concern”, said an official.
The only positive case of coronavirus detected so far in J&K came to light last week in Jammu city when a Shia Muslim lady who arrived back on February 23 from Iran tested positive for the virus.
Reports said the lady belonged to a group of Shia pilgrims from Kargil district who had gone to Iran.
There is no official word so far whether or not the other members of the group were subjected to the mandatory quarantine or virological tests before they were allowed to join their families.
Around 50 Shia pilgrims who arrived back from Iran recently belonged to the central Budgam district in the Valley.
Officials have kept all of them in an isolation ward till they pass off the mandatory quarantine period, which as per the latest requirement, is 28 days instead of 14 days as was believed earlier.
Two locals belonging to Pulwama district of the Valley were Wednesday admitted to the isolation ward of the super specialty Sher-e-Kashmir institute of medical sciences (SKIMS) in Srinagar city.
Doctors at the institute said both had a recent travel history abroad, but their test results are still awaited although they have flu symptoms.
In addition to the pilgrims arriving back from Iran, around 300 local students studying there are expected to reach home in the Valley before the end of this month.
Authorities in Ladakh have shut all schools up to the higher secondary level in addition to closing the child nutrition and healthcare ”Anganwadi” centres across the UT.
In Jammu city all cinemas have been closed and social and religious organisations have been advised to avoid large congregations.
Hand sanitizers are out of market in the Valley as dealers said people indulging in panic buying had emptied their stocks.
Schools up to the primary level and Anganwadi centres have been closed in the Valley and the Jammu and Samba districts.
Authorities are regularly issuing advisories asking people not to panic claiming that the mortality rate among COVID-19 patients is as low as 4 per cent.
“Statistics have never helped fight panic. Aggressive control and preventive measures alone can do that,” said Bashir Ahmad, a retired veterinarian. (IANS)