Unlock Begins

Kashmir Magazine

Markets reopened and public transport plied partially in J&K after a 31-day lockdown as the administration announced phased withdrawal of ‘corona curfew’, in the wake of the downward trend in the number of the virus cases.

The authorities allowed all stand-alone shops, outdoor shopping complexes and outdoor bazaars to reopen on an alternate or rotation basis, except Saturdays and Sundays. However, all educational institutes will remain closed till June 15. Public transport was also to ply with 50% seating capacity.

The fresh guidelines were issued under section 24 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

As per an order issued by the J&K Chief Secretary, also the Chairman of the State Executive Committee of the Department of Disaster Management, Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction, “all standalone shops, outdoor shopping complexes and outdoor bazaars will reopen with effect from May 31 on alternate or rotation basis on weekdays except for Saturdays and Sundays.”

The guidelines to this effect were issued by the UT Government. The concerned District Magistrates will issue roster fixing alternate days for shops to open.
All Universities, colleges and technical/skill development institutions in J&K will stay closed for imparting on-campus/in-person education to the students till June 15. Schools and coaching centres will also stay closed till June 15. The teaching staff will conduct online classes only from their houses. The Universities have been permitted to seek in-person attendance of minimal staff only for research/lab/thesis work etc.
The Government has permitted the opening of barbershops/salons/parlours for three days a week. Standalone shops of all types will open on alternate days or a rotation system on weekdays. Outdoor bazaars and outdoor shopping complexes will also open on alternate days. However, in the case of indoor shopping malls, only 25 percent of shops will be allowed to open.
Roster of all shops will be issued by the concerned District Magistrates, the guidelines stated.
“Restaurants will open on all days except weekend curfew days but only for home delivery of orders and room service of residents. No entry of customers will be permitted in the restaurants even for take-away of orders. Bars will stay closed till further orders,” the guidelines said. As per them, canteens and eateries at Bus Stands, Railway Stations and Airports have been permitted to open on all days. Liquor shops will open three days a back as per the roster to be issued by the Deputy Commissioners.
The Government has also permitted sportspersons to resume their training and activities in outdoor sports stadia/grounds but ordered that indoor sports complexes and Swimming Pools will stay closed.
“All cinemas, multiplexes, Clubs, Gyms, Spas, Massage Centres and paid parks will continue to remain closed,” the Government order read.
The Government has permitted public transport including matadors/mini-buses/buses etc in the entire Union Territory to operate with 50 percent of the authorized seating capacity. While auto-rickshaws/three-wheelers have been permitted to ply without any restrictions, taxis and Cab aggregators will operate at 50 percent capacity.
The Government has decided to continue with a ceiling on the number of people permitted to attend the gathering at 20 in case of funerals and 25 for all other kind of social/religious gatherings, whether indoor or outdoor venues.
The hotels and hospitality services have been allowed to operate at full capacity subject to the restrictions imposed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
Religious places and places of worship will remain open for the public subject to the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) already issued by the Government.
There will, however, be a daily night curfew from 8 pm to 7 am. There will also be a weekend curfew in the entire UT from 8 pm each Friday to 7 am each Monday during which there will be only essential and emergency services movement. Weddings will be allowed during weekend curfew through the production of Weddings/Identity cards.
“There will be no restrictions on the movement of Government officials for attending office or other duties. All development/construction will also continue without any hindrance,” the Government order said, adding the District Magistrates will issue passes wherever necessary.
The travellers will continue to undergo a COVID-19 Antigen Test through any of the prescribed methods as per the protocol of the Government of Jammu on their arrival through road, rail or air.
The Government has directed all District Magistrates to keep the focus on the positivity rate of closed clustered spaces like public/private offices, schools, colleges, Malls, Bazaars etc and consider implementing control measures in case the weekly positivity rate goes beyond 10 percent in these spaces or if the hospital occupancy crosses 50 percent.
However, in five districts of Kashmir which have been classified as Red Zone because of high positive rate, public transport will remain off the roads, Malls will stay shut and auto-rickshaws will follow odd-even system.
The Red Zone districts include Pulwama, Anantnag, Baramulla, Kupwara and Budgam.
Mohammad Aijaz, Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar, asked the shopkeepers and driver to display their vaccination certificates prominently. “Around 96 containment zones continue to be under the lockdown in Srinagar. It’s mandatory for shopkeepers and transporters to display COVID vaccination certificates.”

Meanwhile, all administrative secretaries were asked to ensure vaccination of all employees above the age of 45 by June 10 and report with compliance accordingly the same day.

The administration planned to vaccinate all the employees above 45 working in their administrative departments by June 10, to resume normal functioning of the offices.

The restrictions on the number of people attending weddings, which is just around 25, and for funerals, which is around 20, remain. “Religious places shall continue to remain open for public, subject to the SOPs.”

The administration’s move has been welcomed by traders and transporters, who claimed heavy losses due to the prolonged lockdown.

Healthy Trends

The easing of the curbs was decided after the signs of second wave showed a downward trend, both in terms of infections and mortality.

The J&K Covid Advisory Committee (CAC) has predicted further improvement in the virus graph “in the next few weeks”. “The second wave witnessed a steep and abrupt surge in positive cases and deaths in J&K and is likely to die down in coming weeks,” the CAC report said.

The positivity rate came down from 13% to 6.2% in recent weeks. An official said the number of new infections is far less than the number of recovered being discharged from the hospitals.

The Union Territory saw 2,256 positive cases on Monday, a significant dip from the peak touched on May 7 when 5,443 cases were recorded. Around 3,870 people have died due to the virus to date.

As the administration started the process of phase-wise unlocking after a month-long Covid-19 lockdown, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) Monday appealed to all members of the business community and general public to ensure adhering to Covid-19 appropriate behaviour.

With ease in restrictions, the market was back to hustle and bustle much to the relief of all stakeholders who had been adversely impacted due to lockdown.

KCCI president Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad and general-secretary Farooq Amin appealed to the public to be cautious and not complacent against the contagion of Covid-19 as it is not gone yet.

To ensure the curve is flattened and the spread of coronavirus is limited, KCCI urged all business stakeholders to get vaccinated, ensure physical distance in operating the business, wear masks and ensure sanitization. It also appealed to business establishments to comply with orders and health advisories of the administration in the battle against the Covid-19.

“The lifting of the lockdown comes as a big relief for daily wagers, traders, transporters and shopkeepers and others impacted due to the Covid-19 triggered a lockdown. To prevent the administration from resorting to lockdown, the stakeholders and general public should demonstrate utmost caution to limit its impact on“our already devastated economy due to successive lockdowns,” the KCCI spokesperson said.

“We need to be smart and learn to live with the virus,” the spokesman said.

The onus, he said, is on micro-level organizations, associations as they need to ensure the Covid-19 appropriate behaviour is followed in their zones.

Before April as the cases had started to recede and business was resuscitating, the carelessness with the precautions resulted in a spike and the administration had to resort to lockdown.

“In Kashmir as the winter witnesses fewer business activities, the summers are expected to be its peak season. As the contagion still rages, KCCI urges people to cooperate to save lives and the economy,” the spokesperson said.