SRINAGAR: Authorities have closed schools up to the primary levels in six districts across Jammu and Kashmir on basis of the arrivals of individuals from Coronavirus infected offshore geographies, informed sources said. The decision was taken after two individuals – both in Jammu, were admitted with “very high virus load”, a step short of possible Covid-19 infection.
Rohit Kansal, the UT spokesman who addressed media, said the administration is monitoring and reviewing the situation. He asked people to avoid felling victim to panic and rumour-mongering. “Classwork up to primary level has been suspended till March 31, 2020, in Jammu, Samba in Jammu division and Budgam, Baramulla, Srinagar and Bandipora in Kashmir Division,” Kansa said. “This is just a precautionary move and there is no need to panic
Right now, however, the administration priority is to trace the people who have been in contact with the two potential cases – a man and a woman.
2 High Virus Load Cases
Officials’ privy of the developments said that a resident of Satwari, a Jammu periphery reported at the airport that he was suffering from fever. He had flown from South Korea and was immediately admitted to the isolation ward.
“He had flown in a Go Air aircraft and we are in the process of trying to locate the persons who shared the seat and those who were in the two rows,” Dr Shafaqat Iqbal Khan, who is nodal officer in the fight against the pandemic said.
The other is a lady. Basically a resident of Kargil, she had flown from Qom, the revered Shia Muslim city in Iran, along with her husband. From Delhi, she had driven to Jammu in a bus. In Jammu she reported soar throat and was driven t a local physical somewhere in Rehadi belt from where she was shifted to hospital and admitted. “Her husband is also being monitored but he is asymptomatic,” Dr Khan said. “We have evaluated that she had had contact with almost 20 persons mostly in the bus and we are trying to trace them.”
“Swabs from their throats have been sent for mandatory tests and we were told that they could be positive,” Dr Iqbal said. “Right now their status is that they carry a high virus load which, many or may not be Covid-19 positive.”
Leh Confirms 2 Cases
Dr Tsering Samphel, Medical Superintendent of Sonam Norboo Memorial Hospital (SNM) hospital Leh confirmed that two patients have tested positive for coronavirus. Both had arrived recently from Iran.
One patient had landed in Leh on February 27 and another on February 28. They had reported to the hospital on February 29. Their samples were sent to the testing, results of which were received on Saturday afternoon. Both are being treated in isolation. Confirming the detection, Dr Samphel was not in a position to offer any detail about the possible contacts the two might have had with people after their return from the Iran pilgrimage.
Possible Iran Arrivals
This was the key reason why the government decided to shut the school education up to primary level in areas, which have had recent visitors from the pandemic impacted countries, especially Iran. “We have had almost 70 people returning from Iran,” Dr Iqbal said. “We expect 1000 more to come in a few days more that we have seen their dispersal on basis of which select districts have been taken up for school closure till primary level.”
This is one of the few precautionary measures that were decided in a high-level meeting in Jammu during the day. Listing the measures taken to control and prevent the spread of the virus, Kansal said 100% self-declaration protocols have already been established at Jammu and Srinagar airports.
“All entrants to Jammu and Kashmir via road are also being monitored at Lakhanpur and Lower Munda respectively. Help desks at Railway stations, Jammu and Katra are also operational,” Kansal said. “100% self-declaration and thermal imaging has also been introduced for all pilgrims visiting the Mata Vaishno Deviji Shrine,” Kansal said biometric attendance in the entire Jammu and Kashmir has also been suspended till March 31 as a precautionary measure. He said advisory against large gathering has also been issued.
287 Under Surveillance
So far, Kansal said 287 cases were put under active surveillance of whom 95 have completed the surveillance period of 28 days. He informed that 28 samples of suspected cases have been sent for testing so far, 25 have reported negative, 2 have reported high viral load but final report is awaited.
“The government strongly urges all social, religious and political organizations to avoid large gatherings. We are grateful that many organizations have responded to our advice and deferred such gatherings,” he informed further.
He further urged citizens, especially those with travel history to affected countries such as China, Iran, Italy to self declare immediately and to report to the nearest government health facility about any symptoms. “However, we reiterate that citizens must take basic precautions such as hygiene, hand washing, respiratory etiquette. They must also report any symptoms to the medical authorities immediately,” he added. He was flanked by Dr Syed Sehrish Asgar, Director Information & Public Relations; Bhupinder Kumar, Mission Director NHM; Dr Shafqat, Nodal Officer, Coronavirus, UT J&K were also present on the occasion.
CS Presides Over Meeting
Earlier, during the day, Chief Secretary presided over a meeting related to the looming crisis. Reviewing the preparedness, BVR Subrahmanyam told the meeting that measures put in place for containment and management of the Coronavirus infection. The meeting was informed that existing Bio-Safety labs at GMC Srinagar and SKIMS could be upgraded for testing Coronavirus cases. Chief Secretary asked Financial Commissioner, Health to prioritise and facilitate setting up of testing labs both in Jammu and Srinagar. Financial Commissioner, further informed that the Information, Education and Communication (IEC) campaign has been stepped up with daily advertisements carrying information on Do’s & Don’ts in print and electronic media, besides radio jingles and mobile ringtones.
Emphasising, that 100% declaration needs to continue at the Airports, Chief Secretary asked Principal Secretary, Civil Aviation to liaison with airlines and ensure inflight announcements and distribution of self-declaration forms so as to facilitate screening of passengers at the Airports. He also asked Divisional Commissioner, Jammu to have a Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) counter at Jammu Airport as well.
To step up vigil at the railways stations, Chief Secretary directed Deputy Commissioners, Jammu and Reasi to have 24×7 health desks, besides volunteers on platforms to carry out random checks on passengers. He also asked DC Reasi to liaise with CEO SMVDSB to ensure fool-proof measures at the shrine where a large influx of people is expected in coming Navratras.
While reviewing isolation and quarantine capacities for confirmed and suspected cases, Chief Secretary asked both the Divisional Commissioners and DCs to identify buildings or locations that can be utilised for such purpose to have an adequate number of beds in place for the purpose. He directed DCs to have at least 25-30 bedded quarantine facilities in each district. Chief Secretary directed all Deputy Commissioners and health functionaries to have detailed surveillance plans prepared in advance to have effective contact tracing and surveillance, if need arises.