JAMMU: With second corona wave gripping the entire nation at a rapid and alarming pace around first anniversary of lockdown, vulnerability of Jammu is profusely getting pronounced, primarily for two reasons. First, because of the influx of people from outside Jammu and Kashmir, especially from the neighbouring states of Punjab, Himachal and Haryana and, secondly due to very casual approach in adhering to corona appropriate behaviour.For the first time since January this year, the number of fresh cases has breached 1,000-mark in the Union Territory, despite limited testing. The gravity and enormity of the situation can be exemplified by the testing statistics in the University of Jammu. For two consecutive days on Friday and Saturday last 26 and 39 cases were respectively reported notwithstanding the varsity observing off-day on the weekend. As a result, the university peripheries were declared as containment zone and the institutions were closed for a week for academic purposes. If the testing is intensified in public places in general, and the government offices in particular, especially the Civil Secretariat and the offices of Heads of Departments, the scenario can be well imagined. These are the places frequented by employees and the general public on regular basis. A random testing can substantiate the fears.Being gateway to Jammu and Kashmir, the capital city has been captivated by COVID-19. The current spell of corona curfew between 10 PM and 6 AM is not going to serve any purpose, as the eight urban districts remain generally deserted during nights but for the Jammu city, which remains agog with activity due to 24×7 influx of pilgrims to Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine. The scenario at Lakhanpur, the entry point to the Union Territory, speaks volumes about the anti-COVID behaviour, which will certainly put the Jammu’s health structure haywire in days to come.The scenario across the country being very grim, Jammu cannot escape the virus wrath. The daily rise in COVID-19 cases in India has crossed the disturbing milestone of 1.32 lakh from 20,000 infections in just a month, unlike last year when it took 76 days for daily cases to reach the then peak of 97,894 on September 17, reflecting the speed at which the virus is spreading.Though every part of the country was witnessing upward trend in the virus cases during its first spell, yet the capital city of Jammu had succeeded in breaking the chain last year with the then Deputy Commissioner Sushma Chauhan taking very bold decisions on day to day basis keeping in view the status of pandemic. Her administrative acumen at that young age helped greatly in putting halt to the spread of pandemic. Taking cue from Sushma’s innovative and bold initiatives, the other deputy commissioners too became emboldened and emulated her ‘way forward’ to tackle the virus. Sushma Chauhan’s apt decision yielded dividends in terms of containing spread of corona in Jammu, as a result of which the city remained comparatively safe. Chauhan did not shy away from taking other stringent measures for the larger interest of the people. Her line of action then is needed to be emulated now if Jammu is to be insulated against the widespread pandemic. Its impact has already increased in the capital city, as warnings seem to have been taken for granted by the people. The situation has worsened and the pace of increase in COVID cases is showing upward trend with every passing day, which can still be controlled, if proactive initiatives are taken by the government. To begin with, the lock down appears to be the only solution to fast worsening situation.The arguments against imposition of lockdown, especially in the wake of increased availability of PP kits, ventilators, hospital beds and above all the vaccine, do not hold good in this part of the country where infrastructural facilities are still quite meager compared to other cities and towns. The reports about next four weeks being critical, therefore, warrant immediate consideration and imposition of lockdown, lest the situation gets out of control.The observations of Dr VK Paul, Member-Health, Niti Aayog with regard to grim situation ahead are warning signals, which need to be taken note of by all those responsible for the COVID management in Jammu. The number of cases is increasing every day compared to the other districts of the region. This may be because of huge influx of the people and comparatively lesser or inadequate facilities to meet the challenge. The testing has not been up to the mark and once it is further intensified the ground situation will reflect the actual enormity of the cases. That will be a situation, which will be beyond the control of COVID managers. Before it is too late, the COVID managers must, therefore, give a serious thought to locking down the capital city for a fortnight at least to check the spread. This may cause some economic hazards but that will not be costlier than the life. During the lockdown, the testing can be ramped up and course correction may be done to break the chain and contain further spread of the virus.
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