Kashmiris worried about lack of testing at Jawahar Tunnel, say ‘outsiders’ bringing virus into valley

Kashmiris worried about lack of testing at Jawahar Tunnel, say ‘outsiders’ bringing virus into valley

Srinagar: Even amid an alarming resurgence of Covid-19 cases, a huge number of non-local labourers and tourists are perceived to be entering Kashmir regularly through road like a cakewalk, as no testing facility has been set up at Jawahar Tunnel, the gateway to Kashmir valley, as was done last year when the pandemic first broke out.

Though the administration has set up Covid testing facility for all those entering Kashmir at Srinagar Airport, persons entering the valley by road seem to be passing through unnoticed.

Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, PK Pole, told Kashmir Reader that the J&K government has already set up a testing facility at Lakhanpur in Jammu region, which is enough for all the travellers entering Kashmir.

“We have already set up a testing facility at Lakhanpur and all the travellers including non-local labourers and tourists are entering Kashmir after going through proper testing. The government is already ensuring testing of all travellers into J&K which also applies to Kashmir valley,” Pole said.

However, the non-testing of road travellers at Jawahar Tunnel has caused serious concern among locals, who complain that thousands of persons including tourists, non-local labourers and others are entering Kashmir on daily basis without going through any sort of testing, which has likely resulted in a spike of the Covid-19 graph in Kashmir.

“It’s utterly shocking that no testing facility has been set up at Jawahar Tunnel which is the gateway to Kashmir. Thousands of travellers have been entering Kashmir valley by road on daily basis, yet no one is paying any attention to getting them tested. Given the huge surge in Covid-19 cases since past week, the administration should had been alarmed at the arrival of so many outsiders, but it seems they’re least bothered,” Ishfaq Ahmad, a resident of Qazigund, told Kashmir Reader.

In absence of testing, he added, the locals of Kashmir valley are being exposed to greater risk of contracting the virus. “The stark example of which is the swelling Covid-19 cases in the valley. We are all frightened about the second Covid wave. We are yet to recuperate from its first wave and we can’t afford any more trouble. This is dangerous and fatal. The administration must ensure testing of all travellers entering the valley as soon as possible,” Ahmad said.

Since a month ago, J&K has been witnessing a sharp resurgence in Covid-19 cases with the daily tally touching an all-time high of 835 cases on Thursday. The fatality count is also showing an upward trend from 1,958 deaths in early March to 2,019 deaths at present, an average of two deaths per day.

Besides, the number of active cases has witnessed a manifold increase over the past month across Kashmir valley. As on Thursday, the active tally of infected patients stood at 3,935, many times higher than in the early days of the month at just 631 patients.

Amid the spike in Covid-19 cases, the Doctors’ Association of Kashmir (DAK) has also expressed serious concern over the arrival of travellers into the valley without any testing. Given the fear of new variants of the virus, the DAK said, there is an urgent need of testing all travellers to prevent the current situation from going out of control.

“Testing for all the travellers entering Kashmir valley should be made mandatory. No one should evade testing given the current circumstances. There has been a surge in Covid-19 cases and this is worrying us all. The administration should ensure testing of all travellers either coming by road or air, especially at Jawahar Tunnel,” Dr Suhail Naik, President of DAK, told Kashmir Reader.

All travellers, Naik demanded, should go through RTPCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction) method of testing and be quarantined for 24 hours, which is the minimum time required for getting result of this test. The RTPCR test, he said, ensures better accuracy in results and takes the mutation of the virus into consideration.

“Instead of RAT (Rapid Antigen Test) testing, RTPCR testing of all travellers should be made mandatory. They should be quarantined properly for a period of 24 hours and only after negative reports be allowed towards their destinations,” Dr Naik said.

Pertinently, just last week, the Jammu and Kashmir government declared the Jawahar Tunnel range in Kashmir region and Lakhanpur in Jammu region as Red-Zones.

Piyush Singla, Deputy Commissioner Anantnag, while talking to Kashmir Reader said that the administration will soon set up a testing facility at Jawahar Tunnel to ensure all the travellers are tested before they enter Kashmir valley.

“We are trying to put up a mechanism and soon a testing facility will be set up at Jawahar Tunnel. Preliminary work for the facility has been done. We are looking at the practical feasibility and accordingly health teams will be deputed to start the testing process at the facility,” Singla said.

There is, however, considerable traffic at Jawahar Tunnel, Singla said, and carrying out tests there can cause a huge traffic mess. “In order to prevent this, we are looking for a best possible solution to ensure flow of traffic and testing goes simultaneously,” he said.

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