SRINAGAR: The administration in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir has decided to treat the entire region as well as three districts in Jammu as red zones, or hotspots, to effectively combat coronavirus infections, it emerged on Tuesday.
Earlier, the Indian health ministry had classified only four districts — Srinagar, Bandipora, Anantnag, and Shopian as red zones.
But regional Divisional Commissioner Pandurang Pole told Anadolu Agency that given the spike in the number of cases, there were red zones in every district and infections were not showing any downward trend.
“At this point in time, we cannot afford to lower our guard. All the 10 districts of the region will be treated as red zones until further orders,” the official said.
According to an order issued by Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam, districts can be classified into red or orange zones based on their coronavirus situation.
The administration in its order declared the districts of Jammu, Samba and Kathua as red zones, Udhampur, Reasi, Ramban, and Rajouri as orange zones while Doda, Kishtwar, and Poonch were declared as green zones. All the ten districts of the Kashmir region, however, were declared red zones.
India has extended its lockdown until May 17 but lifted some restrictions.
According to NDTV, guidelines issued by the country’s health ministry have permitted intra-district movement in orange zones while delivery services for essential items have also been allowed to resume. Offices are also allowed to resume work but with a limitation of 30 per cent of the original workforce.
The restrictions in green zones have been eased further with all shops except those prohibited by the union territory allowed to reopen.
Indian media reports suggest the region has 726 virus cases and eight deaths so far.
Meanwhile, long-running curbs on the internet have prevented those living in the Indian occupied region from accessing information about the coronavirus.
The scenic valley has been tense since New Delhi stripped it of autonomy and statehood in August last year.
Authorities detained thousands and introduced one of the world’s longest-running internet shutdowns, only restoring limited 2G mobile internet service in January.
Dr Suhail Naik, president of the main doctors’ association in India-occupied Kashmir, said education drives seen elsewhere in India about the symptoms of the virus are impossible to run in the region.
“We want to educate people through videos, which is not possible at 2G speed. We are handicapped in the absence of high-speed internet,” he said.
In a letter to officials, human rights group the Internet Freedom Foundation said internet speeds in Kashmir were “woefully insufficient” to spread the message around combating the coronavirus threat.
In March, Pakistan had called on India to lift the communication blockade imposed in occupied Kashmir and ensure supplies of essential commodities in the valley to contain the spread of Covid-19 and mitigate the suffering of Kashmiris.
The Indian government had on August 5, 2019, repealed Article 370 of its constitution, stripping occupied Kashmir of its special status. It also divided up occupied Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories; one Jammu and Kashmir, and the other the Buddhist-dominated high altitude region of Ladakh. The bifurcation of the territory came into effect on October 31 last year.
A strict lockdown and communications blackout has been in place in occupied Kashmir since August last year, with reports suggesting limited mobile data services and internet were temporarily restored in the region in January.