COVID-19: 4 more test positive in Kashmir; Authorities fear more cases as people hide travel history

SRINAGAR: Four more persons tested positive for coronavirus in J&K on Wednesday, taking the number of cases to 11, a senior official said, while authorities in Kashmir expressed apprehensions that the cases could be more than reported in the Valley as a significant number of people appeared to have concealed their travel history.

"Four new positive cases have been reported from Kashmir. All of them are from Bandipora district," Bhupinder Singh, Director of National Health Mission and incharge of measures on COVID-19, told reporters inJammu.

He said that the new patients had come in contact with a person who had tested positive in Srinagar on Tuesday.

As per a government bulletin on Wednesday in Jammu and Kashmir, as many as 5,124 travellers and people who came in contact with suspected and positive cases have been put under surveillance. Among them 3,061 are in home quarantine (including facilities operated by the government), 80 in hospital quarantine and 1,477 in home surveillance.

As many as 506 people have completed their 28-day surveillance period, it said. While 326 samples have been sent for testing, 294 tested negative, 11 were positive including one patient who recovered. Reports of 21 are awaited, it added.

Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar, Shahid Iqbal Chaudhary said the administration was flooded with messages about people concealing travel history, apparently to avoid undergoing mandatory quarantine.

"Flood of messages about travellers who concealed travel history; and about contacts. I wish such people acted responsibly. Those appeals weren''t without reason. Control room and teams are having tough time," he tweeted on Wednesday.

"Doctors suggest actual cases in community could probably be more than those tested positive," he said and appealed to the people to stay indoors during the lockdown period so as to break the chain of transmission of the virus.

"For heaven''s sake stay at homes and report to designated hospitals if you have symptoms/travel history. Consult on phone before visiting hospital. Please. Spread the word," he added.

Earlier, four persons tested positive for coronavirus in the Kashmir valley.

Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir Police has registered 218 FIRs against people who violated the lockdown imposed to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, an official said.

Restrictions on movement imposed in Kashmir to prevent the spread of coronavirus were tightened on Wednesday and strict action initiated against violaters, officials said.

Forty-nine people were arrested in Srinagar, Sopore, Handwara and Anantnag areas of the Valley for violating the prohibitory orders on Monday, while 45 were arrested in Ganderbal and Kupwara districts on Tuesday.

Security forces sealed off several roads and erected barriers across the Valley to enforce the lockdown, they said.

Police vehicles fitted with public address systems went around the residential areas late Tuesday as well as on Wednesday morning, announcing the imposition of restrictions under section 144 of CrPC and advising people to stay indoors. Police also used drones in some parts of the city to announce the restrictions, they added.

A suspected coronavirus patient, who had recently travelled to another country, Wednesday fled from a hospital in Srinagar but was immediately tracked and re-admitted, officials said.

They said legal action would be taken against the patient for putting other people''s health at risk.

The patient, a resident of Batamaloo area of the city here, was admitted to the hospital on Tuesday and his sample has been sent for the COVID-19 test, the officials said.

Authorities in the Union Territory also announced more steps to assist the people who may be facing hardships due to the lockdown.

The J-K Administrative Council has ordered forthwith release of one-month pension in advance to all its retired employees besides the wages for a month to its daily-wage workers, an official spokesman said.

The Council had also decided to release advance ration for April and May to all ration card holders and one month''s ration for Mid-Day Meals would also be distributed in advance amongst the parents of eligible children.

It had also decided that in view of the difficulties being faced by them, ration packets be immediately distributed among the destitute and slum dwellers.

Around 1.60 lakh families in Srinagar city would get ration delivered to their homes from Saturday. Authorities released toll free helpline numbers for support, guidance, and response to health related queries on coronavirus: National -- 1075; Jammu and Kashmir -- 0191-2549676 (UT level Cell), 01912520982, 0191-2674444, 0191-2674115 (For Jammu Division), 01942440283 & 0194-2430581(For Kashmir Division).

Singh urged the people to strictly follow directions for a complete lockdown in the entire nation for the next 21 days in an effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic as it is essential to break the chain of its transmission.

"People are appealed to stay in their homes and take the lockdown imposed by the government with utmost sincerity as carelessness of few can throw us into grave jeopardy, keeping in view the experiences of other countries," he said.

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PTI