Coronavirus: Authorities tighten curbs in Kashmir, 49 arrested for violating lockdown order

Srinagar: Authorities in Kashmir tightened curbs on the movement of people to prevent the spread of coronavirus on Tuesday, a day after 49 people were arrested for violating the lockdown order, officials said.

Restrictions were intensified with security forces sealing off many roads and erecting barricades to check unwanted movement of people across the valley to enforce the lockdown for containing the spread of the coronavirus infection, the officials said.

They said the authorities ordered stricter restrictions on Tuesday in view of the instances of non-cooperation and violations of restrictions from the general public reported at several places across the valley.

Police vehicles fitted with public address systems went around the residential areas in the city here and elsewhere in the valley on late Monday as well as early in the morning on Tuesday to announce that restrictions under Section 144 CrPC had been imposed.

They advised people to stay indoors.

The police also used drones in some parts of the city to announce restrictions on the movement of people, they added.

The union territory administration on Sunday announced a lockdown across Jammu and Kashmir till 31 March as part of its efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The administration said 16 essential services, including healthcare personnel, have been exempted from the restrictions.

However, in an order issued on Monday, Srinagar District Magistrate Shahid Choudhary said till further mechanism has been put in place for movement of all notified essential services, the exemption on movement shall apply only to officials of healthcare (including doctors, paramedics and ambulance operators), fire and emergency services, power, water, food and civil supplies and public works departments, officials on duty at quarantine centres and those associated with measures for containment of spread of coronavirus infection, those engaged in transportation of medicines and essential commodities and equipment like ration, petrol, diesel and LPG, and print and electronic media persons.

The order stated that other organisations like banks and telecommunications related to essential services would be issued movement passes for minimum staff required for running their operations.

The order and stricter restrictions came after instances of non-cooperation and violations of restrictions from the general public reported at several places across the valley.

In a series of action against violators of the prohibitory orders, the police arrested 49 persons from Srinagar, Sopore, Handwara and Anantnag area of the valley.

In Srinagar, police received information regarding a gathering at Gani Memorial Stadium, Srinagar. Officers swung into action and arrested three persons for violating the orders.

The officials said the three had organised a cricket match at the stadium.

In Sopore, 10 persons were arrested for violating prohibitory orders, while in Handwara 35 persons were taken into custody for defying prohibitory orders and police also seized 23 vehicles from different areas of Handwara in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district, they said.

Similarly, the officials said, in Anantnag, a person was arrested for defying restrictions.

Cases under relevant sections of the law have been registered against these persons, they added.

More than 1,100 residents of Kashmir, who returned to the valley from various countries, have been placed under quarantine at various makeshift facilities set up by the authorities.

Senior healthcare officials have advised people not to travel into the valley or out of Kashmir for the time being as it was unsafe.

The authorities have had a harrowing time in trying to convince the people coming from coronavirus-affected countries to stay in quarantine facilities set up by the government.

Several travellers have either avoided travelling by air from Delhi or faked their travel history to avoid being quarantined.

Meanwhile, markets across the valley were shut and public transport was off the roads with only pharmacies and groceries allowed to open, the officials said.

The train services have already been suspended till 31 March.

Educational institutions across Kashmir have been closed, while all public places including gymnasiums, parks, clubs and restaurants have been shut down.

Restrictions were first imposed in many parts of the valley on Thursday last week to contain the spread of the virus infection. The measures were taken after a 67-year-old woman from Khanyar area of the city, who had returned on 16 March from Saudi Arabia after performing Umrah, tested positive for COVID-19 infection.

So far, the valley has registered only one positive case of the infection.

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