The world is already scrambling to deal with the deadly coronavirus pandemic and with four COVID-19 cases detected in the Indian-Occupied Kashmir (IOK), fear amongst the people in the valley is mounting.
According to APP, hospitals in the disputed region have an acute shortage of doctors and paramedics, while its healthcare facilities are insufficient to meet the crisis which has unsettled countries with world-class medical infrastructure, Kashmir Media Service reported. The first case of the coronavirus pandemic was reported on March 19.
Separated From The World
The Muslim-majority region has been under a strict security and communication lock-down since August 5 when India stripped the disputed Himalayan region of its special status. The internet was restored earlier this month, but it remains slow as 4G services are still not allowed.
Srinagar turned into a ghost town this week as markets were shut, public transport banned and entry of travelers restricted.
The fear over the pandemic is compounded by a feeling among Kashmiris that the administration is not being transparent with them.
Shahid Chaudhary, head of the civil administration in Srinagar, explained the situation on Twitter.
Trust me if I share a summary of daily events NONE in Kashmir will sleep. Let’s keep our egos aside, work collectively and instead of raising panic and alarm help eachother to improve. This 3rd World War. Nothing less. If it passes we will have a Lifetime for all that. Good day
— Shahid Choudhary (@listenshahid) March 22, 2020
The real crisis, however, may well lie in Kashmir’s hospitals, which remain understaffed and ill-equipped to fight the outbreak.
Ill-Equipped Healthcare System
“We need lock-down for one month,” veteran doctor in the IOK told media on condition of anonymity. “If it [coronavirus pandemic] happens here, we will be devastated. We will die like cattle.”
As per doctors, Kashmir’s healthcare system is “ill-equipped to deal with even normal things in normal times”.
According to the Government Medical College principal, they have more than 13,000 N95 masks, 3,300 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits.
My mother called me from prison yesterday. Amid corona epidemic, no precautionary measures have been taken. The jail authorities won’t even allow masks or hand sanitizers. UN urged Iran to release political prisoners. When is it asking India to do the same?#COVID2019#Kashmir
— Ahmed Bin Qasim (@Aahmedbq) March 17, 2020
An official audit of healthcare facilities conducted in 2018 found that the existing manpower was “barely sufficient to run the health institutions in view of the sustained increase of patient flow across the state”.
According to officials, the valley lack required protective equipment as the doctors just wear surgical masks, normal gloves and surgical gown and a cap.
Two doctors have recently been put in quarantine after they developed symptoms of COVID-19 at the region’s two major hospitals.
Amnesty International has also asked the Indian authorities to fully restore the internet in Kashmir.
In wake of the #coronavirus pandemic, Government of the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir must restore full access to internet services in the region of Jammu & Kashmir, and ensure that people have full access to health & safety related information.
— Amnesty International (@amnesty) March 19, 2020
UN Chief António Guterres has also called for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world and focus on the fight against COVID-19. Now the ball is definitely in Modi’s court.