If we allow any lenience in Srinagar, the city will burst in few days: DC Srinagar Shahid Choudhary
After the increase in positive Covid-19 cases across Jammu and Kashmir, the Srinagar district administration is doing everything under its command to keep the capital safe and the disease at bay. On part of Srinagar administration, the Development Commissioner Srinagar Shahid Choudhary is leading the fight against the pandemic. Shahid Choudhary in his first detailed interview, following the outbreak of Covid-19, talks with Rising Kashmir’s senior correspondent Junaid Kathju and outlays the plans to save the city from the outbreak
What is the present situation in Srinagar city arising out of Covid-19?
We have 53 positive coronavirus cases at the local level. In addition, we have 19 cases of non-local residents. We made sure that none of the non-locals gets mixed with the population. We immediately quarantined them upon their arrival.
Is 53 a worrying number?
We have 53 positive cases in a city which is having 17 lakh population. However, we cannot afford to relax. The cases can increase given the number of samples that are still getting tested. But there was no case which is outside our system and neither their contacts are outside our radar. Barring 22 people, all 870 people from Delhi hotspot (Nizamuddin Markaz) have been traced.
Srinagar administration was criticized for using concrete cement and iron poles to block red zones?
We have 15 red zones in Srinagar city. I invite journalists to spend a day with us and see what is happening in the city. So, those who criticise administration will get a better idea of the ground situation. Now, as per Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), all red zones should have only one entry and exit point. In Kashmir’s 15 red zones, we have 45 exit points. We have closed nearly 400 exit points, out of which 300 points have been blocked with concertina wires, around 70 to 80 exit points have been blocked either by using drums or wooden logs. Barring Chattabal area, where we have only one or two exits points, the rest of the red zones have adequate openings for any emergency situation. People who lecture us via social media don't understand what is happening on the ground. And, due to false perception, even law-abiding people think that Srinagar administration is doing something wrong.
Srinagar administration was also criticized for putting half of the population of the city under the red zone?
Initially, we were criticized that why all travellers are getting screened, as people had to wait for hours queues at Srinagar airport. Then when we started quarantining people, again there was a controversy. Later, when positive cases started to emerge and patients were shifted to hospitals people started calling doctors butchers. Now after 15 days, the same people are saying that quarantining process was good. The facilities were best. Doctors are heroes or warriors. Likewise, you will see the success of red zones in upcoming weeks. We are marking red zones not by the book but as per the situation.
What is the status of testing? And what are other measures taken by administration to tackle Covid-19?
We are increasing the sampling. We are adding up new labs, machinery, and manpower. Rapid testing kits are coming in bulk. Surveillance is going-up. In all 25 zones of Srinagar, I have given full authority to the nodal officers to act as a district administrator. They have all the powers to make the necessary decisions. We have established helpline numbers for all the sections of society. We have deployed nearly 15,000 policemen for ensuring restrictions and also facilitating smooth movement of essential services. Around 10,000 labourers have been provided financial assistance, 41,000 families have provided assistance under PM Jan Dhan Yojana,17000 students have been delivered mid-day meal, 1208 Anganwadi centers have been delivered nutrition at homes. We have the 9,400-bed capacity and will increase it to 10,000 in the next few days. And it is because of these measures that Srinagar was chosen among 16 districts in India for best practices to contain COVID spread.
Will there be any relaxation after April 20 in Srinagar city as per MHA guidelines?
Technically the entire Srinagar city is in the red zone. So it is not possible to give any relaxation at this point in time. If we allow any lenience in Srinagar, the city will burst in a few days. We are lucky enough that there is no community spread at this point of time in the city. And we want to keep it this way.
Do we have enough medicines?
Srinagar is among few cities wherein every two to three days a consignment of medical supply arrive. So, there is no shortage of medicine.
Will there be any relaxation on Taraweeh prayers in Mosques during Ramadan?
No. People are requested to pray at home.