Amid the rise of Covid-19, the administrator restricts educational activities and inaugurates a winter sports event

At a time when the government is imposing restrictions on all educational and other business activities at weekends following an increase in Covid-19 cases, the government of Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday inaugurated a sports event of winter at Doodhpathri tourist destination in Budgam region of Kashmir.

Over the past 18 days, the Kashmir region has reported 3,004 Covid-19 positive cases while 16 people have died, according to government data. However, medical experts believe that the number of reported cases of infection is greatly underestimated, as most people do not get tested.

On Wednesday, Principal Government Medical College Jammu Dr Shashi Sudan according to a news agency said the current positivity rate is very high and one in three people in Jammu and Kashmir are found to be positive for Covid-19.

The decision to hold the event came two weeks after the government announced a nighttime curfew from (9 p.m. to 6 a.m.) in a bid to contain the spread of the infection. The government has also imposed restrictions on non-essential activities in the area.

The Doodhpathri Development Authority (DDA) staged the winter sports event in scenic Doodhpathri, Budgam region, Kashmir, as educational institutions were closed amid a spike in cases of Covid-19. However, the decision to close the establishments aroused widespread opposition from different quarters.

Experts said the event had the ‘potential to contribute’ to the spread of the virus as several pupils from a private school tested positive during a winter campsite at the famous ski resort of Gulmarg in Cashmere.

Last week, around 70 students and officials, who were part of the ski camp at Gulmarg ski resort organized by Jammu and Kashmir Youth Services and Sports (YSS), tested positive for Covid-19.

The decision comes as a surprise given that the region hosting the event remains the worst affected in Jammu and Kashmir and has 13,497 positive active cases, with a total death toll of 2,347. On January 1, there were 927 active positive cases of COVID19. in Kashmir, which has increased by more than 1,355% to date.

The winter sports event at Doodhpathri will continue through the winter according to the Director of Tourism.

Given the apprehension that Covid-19 has caused, Kashmir Tourism Director Dr GN Itoo said: “In Doodhpathri there is no festival but a launching ceremony of the event under appropriate standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Itoo said, “It is an outdoor activity where there is no possibility of large gatherings. “It’s not a festival as such. We have given clear instructions that there should be no breaches of Covid-19 protocols.”

Amid a spike in Covid-19 cases, a few hospitals in Kashmir have been ordered by authorities to suspend Outpatient Department (OPD) services and elective surgeries in the ‘wider public interest’ until at further order.

Over the past fortnight, at least forty-two doctors and paramedics from the Government Medical College (GMC) in Srinagar and its associated hospitals tested positive for Covid-19 on Saturday.

According to authorities, about 130 doctors and 120 paramedics from Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (SMHS), Lal Ded Hospital (LD), Super Specialty Shireen Bagh Hospital and other associated hospitals tested positive for Covid-19 in January.

Itoo further said that tests on visitors, tourists are carried out before allowing them to enter tourist destinations, “if they are not fully vaccinated, to ensure that the spread of Covid-19 infection 19 is prevented”.

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Sally J. Minick