‘One Has To Live With Covid-19, No Matter How Difficult’

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Anantnag is home to almost Covid-19 500 cases. In more than 300 cases, however, the infected have recovered. How the district administration is managing the pandemic,  Deputy Commissioner Kuldeep Krishan Sidha tells Umar Khursheed

Kuldeep Krishan Sidha, KAS

Kashmir Life (KL): South Kashmir is emerging as the new epicentre of the Coronavirus and Anantnag district has a substantial share in this. How you are tackling the situation?

Kuldeep Krishan Sidha (KKS): Weeks ago, Anantnag was on top of the list with 469 positive cases. But now, it has 159 active cases with 305 recoveries indicating the administration’s efforts in making the area Covid-19 free. In mid-April when district abruptly witnessed a sudden spike in positive cases, administration sealed all the roads leading to Shangus where the first case was reported. Subsequently, with the help of village heads, announcements were made and all the instructions about social distancing were given to the local populace. Similarly, the instructions were followed in other areas as well. At present, Anantnag has more than a hundred Red Zones and all the areas are being managed properly by the front line workers of Police, health workers, Municipal Community workers and other departments.

Weeks ago Anantnag was on top of the list but it has now come down to the fourth number. In case of emergencies, the administration has provided toll-free numbers to people that they can use any time if they need any kind of assistance. It is all being done for the good of the people and we will work tirelessly till this pandemic vanishes from the district. Once, when we came to know that places like private hospitals, nursing homes, diagnostic centres, laboratories, service providers and bakers are playing a role in spreading the virus rapidly, all the focus was shifted to these places. It was one of the reasons that the district witnessed the highest positive cases of pregnant women as well.

A list of instructions was passed on to these places in order to follow the norms. Subsequently, the situation at quarantine centres was monitored. Following the earlier disruption when some issues came to light regarding bad facilities at quarantine centres, a proper diet plan was made for them. They were also made to realize that they are not locked up for their punishment but for their safety. Frontline staff was also instructed to motivate them psychologically that one day this all has to end and to that end, they have to behave like responsible citizens.

KL: The district was caught in multiple controversies after deaths of pregnant women were reported. What have you done beyond ordering the probe and what is the status of the probe?

KKS: Whenever emergencies arrive, the first measure that we take is to look for the roots of the problem and we followed the same in this. After the unfortunate incident, all the steps in collecting the information from both the patients and hospital were taken. A team of concerned officers were given the charge to investigate the matter to bring out the truth. No matter, whether it was a procedural lapse or handled wrongly, justice will be delivered. If the investigation holds the authorities’ concerned responsible, we will take action against them.

Later on, multiple positive cases of pregnant women surfaced. It was decided to reserve a private hospital named John Bishop Maternity and Child Care Hospital in the town, exclusively for Covid-19 positive pregnant women belonging to different places of the district. The hospital can handle 20 pregnant women at a time and is first of its kind in south Kashmir managing such rush of Covid-19 positive pregnant women at one time. In the hospital, a dedicated team of doctors have been put on the job with advanced facilities and proper protective gear for the workers.

KL: What we see on the streets is chaos. On a specific day, we see restrictions and on another day we see people moving smoothly?

KKS: One has to live with Covid-19, no matter how difficult it is. We cannot lock people inside forcing them to die with hunger. A strict restriction on free movement has been placed in Red Zones but at the same time, people are allowed to fetch their essential items from the market places. Items like food, milk, grocery and medicines are important, one cannot probably sustain without these items. At the same time, the concerned magistrates are keeping eye on markets as the rush at public places can cause more problems. People especially those dealing in market places are also being instructed time and again to follow the norm of social distancing and mask-wearing.

Keeping in view the problems people face at this time, a specific team receives orders online from Red Zone and send medicines and other essential items to their doorsteps. The critical patients are on our first priority list.

KL:  Lack of smooth accessibility has let black marketing and profiteering flourish. Why the checking squads are only seen occasionally.

KKS: In Anantnag, black marketing has not surfaced as yet but if such things are happening we will take action. A specific market checking squad has been chosen which performs checking on alternate days and monitors the overall situation at market places. Whenever officers get information, a team goes to the spot. Earlier, it was conveyed that dealers operating in the town and outskirts are selling items at exorbitant rates and according to the procedure cognizance was taken. On June 10, we recovered a fine of Rs 12,000, in a few hours from the marketers who were not following the lockdown procedures. We also held meetings with traders. They were asked to maintain social distancing while dealing with the customers. One or another day markets are supposed to open, and for that, we are supposed to be one step ahead.

We have tied-up with Government Medical College’s Preventive Social and Medical department, who will help us in instructing the service providers of the district. The SOP has been drawn and we are looking forward to training them soon.

KL: Despite the number of positive cases increasing, why was security in Red Zone areas withdrawn abruptly causing chaos?

KKS: See, the numbers of positive cases are rising every day and have spread so much. The government cannot keep security for every household in Red Zones. At this crucial time, people have to be very cautious about it and manage the crisis themselves. We have more than 100 Red Zones, how can we deploy the security everywhere. People have to be responsible for themselves and exercise precautions. Then only can we come out of this difficult situation?

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