Srinagar: Even as there was no letup in COVID-19 cases and deaths, people on Tuesday violated ‘COVID curfew’ ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr in the summer capital, Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir valley, where huge rush was witnessed outside banks, ATMs and Bakery shops.
Meanwhile, a good number of vehicles were plying on roads in the city, where administration on Tuesday announced that only people with movement passes will be allowed to ply on the roads from Wednesday onwards. “Passes will be issued to government officials to facilitate their movement from Wednesday in order to strictly implement COVID curfew to curtail the spread of the virus in this summer capital,” an official said.
The Jammu and Kashmir administration last week extended the ‘COVID curfew’, which was scheduled to end on Monday, till May 17 in all 20 districts of the Union Territory. Eid-ul-Fitr, the culmination of holy fasting month of Ramazan, also falls within the extended corona curfew period.
However, essential services have been exempted from the lockdown in the valley, where 699 people were fined while 30 others were arrested on Monday for violating COVID curfew and other guidelines imposed by the administration to curtail the spread of the virus.
The extension in the lockdown in the UT has come in the backdrop of unabated rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in J&K, particularly the summer capital, Srinagar, which has recorded the major chunk of positive cases during the last about 30 days. Srinagar alone, out of 3614 new Covid-19 cases in J&K, reported 701 cases on Monday followed by Jammu with 658 cases. Of the 56 deaths recorded on Monday in the UT, 17 were from Kashmir and 39 from Jammu.
Reports of violation of lockdown were coming from many areas in the city, where grocery, bakery, milk, meat, fruits and vegetables and chicken shops were allowed to function from 0800 hrs to 1200 hrs every day.
Barring Lal Chowk, the nerve centre of the summer capital, and adjoining areas, huge rush of shoppers, who were busy making last minute purchases for Eid, was witnessed in many areas of the city, particularly downtown and uptown. People could also be seen queued up in large numbers, without adhering to social distancing, outside banks and ATMs to withdraw money in many parts of the city.
An official said that movement of government officials shall be facilitated through a pass system from Wednesday. “All Heads of Departments (HODs) are requested to kindly place requisition for passes immediately,” he added.
The decision to issue movement passes to government officials comes a day after Advisor to Lieutenant Governor Baseer Ahmad Khan asked the police to implement the lockdown strictly and ensure that only those vehicles are allowed who carry valid passes issued by the competent authority.
Reports of violation of lockdown were coming from other parts of the valley, including Baramulla, Bandipora and Kupwara in north and Shopian, Anantnag, Pulwama and Kulgam in south Kashmir.
Streets and markets in central Kashmir districts of Budgam and Ganderbal were also flooded with shoppers, who were making purchases ahead of Eid.
The administration last month ordered the closure of all universities, colleges, schools, and coaching centres in the Union Territory till May 15 though teaching and non-teaching staff was asked to attend schools and colleges. But, the J&K administration later allowed teaching and non-teaching staff to stay home in view of a surge in COVID-19 cases in Jammu and Kashmir. The closure of the educational institutes was last week extended till May 30.
Teachers, however, are conducting online classes from home in the valley though many students alleged that they were unable to attend these classes due to non-availability of smart phones. The decision to allow teachers to take online classes from their respective homes was taken after many teaching and non teaching staff members of government schools tested positive for the virus in the Union Territory.