Sleeping Shangus

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An abrupt detection of a series of Covid-19 infections down-south led authorities to strictly impose restrictions. Umar Khurshid spent a day locating the problems and the solution givers

In Shangus, the residents have blocked the entries to their locality voluntarily. KL Image: Umar Khurshid

In Anantnag, the administration have marked four villages as Red Zones after ten of the 11 Coronavirus positive cases were detected in a single area- Shangus. With the 48 active cases in district by now, the local administration is on toes to ensure the pandemic is restricted. They believe that the only way-out of the deadly disease is to ensure a strict enforcement all over the district.

Outside Shangus, the main Red Zone, and the only Covid-19 case is in Chake-Wangund, Dooru.

Strict lockdown implementation part, people have apprehensions that a Shangus resident, who detected positive in the last cache of samples, might turn out to be a super spreader. The man was working at a baker’s shop at Sarnal, in the outskirts of the town, and had visited many places including a hospital and a private clinic, before testing positive.

“There is a possibility of many more cases if the person is hiding anything,” a local resident from Shangus said. “If not, applause for him.” He said the area is under surveillance.

On April 8 when Kashmir saw the biggest single-day spike in positive cases touching 30, including the first case from Kulgam, administration in Anantnag enforced strict restrictions.  Six days later, ACR Anantnag, Syed Yasir, who looks after the overall progress of the district, took to his twitter handle and broke the news of district’s first Covid-19 case.

An official from the district administration said they are alert on social media, just looking for information that will help contain the pandemic locally. He believes that social media during the pandemic emerged as one of the best ways to share the information- it may be the only way for some people, especially if one is trying to alert people of something serious in a very, very quick manner.

At noon, the Shangus seems like a deserted habitation as nobody is seen around. It is a red zone. KL Image: Umar Khurshid

Later, as authorities learnt that patient from Shangus is asymptomatic. “We began tracing his history,” said another official wishing anonymity.

Afterwards, it was learnt that besides visiting hospitals and working at the baker’s shop he had met with many people including family. However, when the person was diagnosed with dehydration he visited a local hospital at Nowgam- one of the neighbouring villages of Shangus marked Red Zone. The patient later visited GMC Anantnag for the treatment of diarrhoea. “This led the doctors to take his samples and he tested positive,” an official from GMC said.

The baker, with whom he was working, was later put in quarantine along with his family along with the shop owner and his family. They were driven to Pahalgam, where the district runs an elaborate quarantine facility.

The history later revealed that he had come into contact with a Kulgam case while working at bakers shop at Sarnal. Interestingly, the baker’s family at Sarnal, Anantnag, is in-laws of the Kulgam patient.

Red Zones

With restrictions on inward and outward movement, life in Shangus belt is crippled. For the residents, getting the essential commodities every day has become a worrisome affair. “Ninety per cent of the villagers here are from the economically poor background and managing in such situation is really tough,” said one of the residents Fayaz Ahmed, 40, of Chan Mohalla, Nowgam.

“The police, revenue, and health officials watch each and every movement of people round-the-clock”.

A shopkeeper, Fayaz said that with no income for the past one month and no means to earn, many families like his, are surviving on whatever essentials they had in stock. “By now, I don’t think anybody of us is having enough essentials stocked to survive,” he said.

Owing to weather reasons, Kashmiris are traditionally hoarders. However, they have been surviving on stocks since August 5, 2019. Usually, the stocking takes place for winters and the families start earning by spring. Now the pandemic came at a time when the people had barely started coming out.

Imtiyaz Ahmed, 30, Fayaz’s neighbour, said that the local administration has arranged distribution of essentials in the vicinity but only the well-off families are able to purchase.

Another resident from Pushroo, Shabir Ahmed, said that people in his area also continue to follow the lockdown norms and contribute their bit to ward off the infection. He said that all the streets leading to his place are blocked by the police, however, vehicles carrying vegetables are allowed.

“Initially, we were scared, we realized that following the instructions of the local health officials would help us combat the situation,” Fayaz said adding that the villagers now avoid coming out as much as they can and try to stock up the commodities they need for a week.

Adil Ahmed, 27, a Mukdampora, Nowgam resident said his area falling under Red Zone is counted among the hotspots. He said that there is restricted access for outsiders; only those delivering essential goods are allowed, but only during a fixed hour.

Medical Emergencies

The district administration has formed a medical staff group for addressing patients in red zone areas. A young KAS officer, Aasif Ahmed was appointed as Nodal officer of the medical emergencies to look after the overall medical care. “All the medical emergencies are being handled by the staff consisting of Nodal officer, two members from drug controller department, a pharmacist and two other members from two different departments,” Aasif said adding that the work among the members was divided. Similarly, some  officers were designated for tasks like tracing the contacts and ration distribution.

Red Zone desertion: Shangus in down south. KL Image: Umar Khurshid

As the patients belonging to both Buffer Zones and Red Zones were not able to step out, Aasif said his team created a Whatsapp group in order to make it easy for the people to contact them.

Aasif said if the staff was approached by a local man for some medicine, they first make it sure that the patient gets it from his place only. “We call a local chemist, guide him and send to the patients’ home, if possible,” he said.

“In case the patient needs some medicine not available at ordinary pharmacies, we send a team- a pharmacist, other members and a driver to Srinagar to get the medicine from SKIMS or some other place where it is available”.

Aasif added that so far they have addressed around 300, queries.

Ration Distribution

As the government has decided to send the entitlement of ration at their doorsteps, the beneficiaries living inside the containment zones get their essentials every alternate day.

ADC food, Anantnag, Aslam said that the food department designated a specific staff to distribute the dry ration, vegetables to the Red Zones. “We have instructed the frontline staff to deliver the ration to beneficiaries in the red zones at their doorstep,” Aslam said.

He said that in other areas that have been marked as Buffer Zones, the department distributes ration coupons to all cardholders and other beneficiaries. He said cardholders would be called one by one in order to avoid long queues and crowding. “Neither the beneficiary nor the ration dealer would be required to come out,” he said. “Our staff will reach their doorstep”.

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