By Ishfaq-ul-Hassan –
On a humid September afternoon, young boys in crisp black waistcoats and pants with a bowtie welcomed guests outside a beautifully decorated Shyamyana in the uptown Srinagar. Guests were served juice and offered a seat as a groom in traditional attire sat on an elevated stage. After few hours, the traditional wazwan was served on `tramis‘ and guests enjoyed the meal to the fullest.
Welcome to Kashmiri marriage 2021. From ‘wanwun’ to ‘wazwan’ and from a long guest list to customary ‘gyawun’ (Bache Nagma), Kashmiri marriages are full on this time around.
The only thing missing is Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to keep COVID at bay. No masks, no social distancing, no sanitizers, and no separate plates. Covid appropriate behavior goes for a toss. Everyone remains busy with savoring `wazwan’ caring little for health protocols. It seems Gushtaba is more important than public health.
Hundreds of marriages are being solemnized every day across Kashmir. But hardly anyone is seen wearing masks. Crowded tents, unventilated halls, and unvaccinated people are making things worse. On top of it, the poor monitoring system is making things difficult.
Srinagar is again attaining notoriety for being a careless city. More than 50 percent of total COVID cases in J&K are reported from Srinagar. The government has again started designating several areas as containment zones. Yellow bamboo fences are again `adorning’ the Srinagar city. Security forces are again on roads to impose lockdown in containment zones.
For the last one week, nearly 593 cases out of 1165 were reported from the Srinagar district alone.
On Monday, 128 new positive cases were reported in Jammu and Kashmir. Of whom 109 were from the Kashmir division. Srinagar reported around 60 percent of total cases on Monday.
Official figures reveal that so far 328069 have tested positive for COVID 19 in Jammu and Kashmir. Of whom 1461 are active positive, 322191 have recovered and 4417 have died — 2170 in Jammu and 2247 in Kashmir. Of the 20 districts, Srinagar topped the list with the highest number of 73703 positive cases
Out of 14361320 samples tested for COVID 19, 14033251 have come back negative till Monday. Till Monday, 3470471 persons have been enlisted for observation. They included 8134 persons in-home quarantine including facilities operated by the government, 1461 in isolation, and 461058 in home surveillance. Besides, 2995401 persons have completed their surveillance period.
The trajectory of positive cases is going upwards in Srinagar sending the administration into a tizzy. Last week, nearly 88 areas have been declared containment zones in Srinagar.
What has added a dangerous dimension to the crisis are the crowded market places in Srinagar. Hardly any shop is adhering to mask rule or maintaining social distancing. No one is checking the vaccination certificates at shops and malls. No one is interested in Covid test certificates. This has made Srinagar one of the callous cities in the country.
Several shops and business establishments were sealed in Srinagar for violating COVID SOPs. But it has hardly made any difference.
Deputy Commissioner Srinagar Muhammad Aijaz Asad has hinted at strict lockdown if the situation does not improve. He also warned strict action against people who violate the norms or invite more than the permitted number of guests at marriage functions.
It is too little too late, however. Srinagar administration has to think out of the box to bring the situation under control. We have seen lockdowns have only brought misery to the poor in Kashmir. People need to change their behavior. Once lockdown is implemented, it leads to a financial crisis. We have seen job losses as Kashmir is under lockdown since August 2015.
Vaccination holds the key. Official figures reveal that 77.78 percent of the population above the age of 18 years has been vaccinated across Jammu and Kashmir.
We need to vaccinate as many people as to create herd immunity. A survey conducted by Community Medicine departments of SKIMS, SKIMS Medical College, Srinagar, has revealed that more than 84.3 percent of people in Kashmir have antibodies against COVID 19.
Srinagar district tops the list with 89.77% of people having anti-bodies against Covid 19. It is followed by Anantnag 87.23% people having anti-bodies against Covid 19. Pulwama has the lowest antibody ratio of 78.24%.
Data was collected in July 2021 with each medical college mentoring two districts. Within each district, 10 clusters were randomly selected. Within each cluster, 40 samples were collected from individuals more than 7 years of age after obtaining proper informed consent for the study.
Doctors however cautioned against any complacency. Doctors believe that new variants of COVID 19 could bypass the body’s immune system. Doctors say vaccination is important to fight the disease.
Covid appropriate behavior including wearing masks, avoiding crowded places, maintaining hand hygiene, and social distancing remain key weapons to fight the deadly COVID 19.
Wazwan can wait, but COVID cannot!
(Author is senior editor at The Kashmir Monitor. Email: [email protected])