In a sharp contrast, the administration has allowed ‘large gatherings’ in public parks like Tulip Garden and Badamwari.
In response to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the Union Territory, the Jammu and Kashmir administration ordered on Sunday that all schools for students up to Class 9th would be closed for one to two weeks starting April 5.
An order, issued in this regard, stated that the decision was taken after overall assessment of the situation pertaining to the spread of COVID-19 in Jammu and Kashmir and the trend in new cases, particularly the recent spike in the number of daily reported cases of infection and the likelihood of young children getting infected and transmitting infection in large numbers.
“On the basis of the above assessment, the State Executive Committee, in exercise of the powers conferred upon it under Section 24 of the Disaster Management Act 2005, hereby orders that: All schools in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir up to and including Class 9 shall compulsorily remain closed till 18.04.2021,” the order read.
It added that the Classes 10th to 12th in all schools shall remain closed till 11.04.2021 while as exams for Classes 10th and 12th shall be held as per notified schedule.
The order also read that there shall be a ceiling of 200 persons on all kinds of social and customary gatherings, functions, subject to strict adherence of COVID-19 protocol already prevalent in this connection.
The order further reads that COVID SOPs, already issued on 30.03.2021, shall continue to apply in all cases.
However, the Education department has asked teachers to attend their duties till a decision is taken concerning them by the government.
The announcement calls into question the Department’s reasoning as there are no students to teach. It also raises the question of whether teachers are immune to COVID-19 and thus cannot contract the pathogen when commuting while it can be avoided.
“As of now, they have to attend the duties as schools have been closed for students only. They have to take online classes from schools,” Secretary, School Education Department, B K Singh was quoted by a local news agency when asked about the same.
Asked if same cannot be done from their residences and what is the need for unnecessarily calling them to attend the schools, the official responded, “I will request them (higher authorities) to inform what to do.”
On the other hand, the administration in the UT has put no bar on the attendance of visitors in public parks, casting doubt on the intention of the decision to close educational institutions.
Thousands of netizens criticized the decision of the administration while they uploaded the photographs and videos of huge rush of people in public parks like Tulip Garden and Badamwari.
As per Greater Kashmir, as many as 32,000 visitors visited the Tulip Garden during the two-day Tulip Festival that concluded on Sunday. This massive attendance was witnessed even when the report claimed that “the number of the invitees to the main venue was also kept limited so that proper social distancing was maintained.”
Tourists visiting the parks have also been witnessed to violate the COVID-19 SOPs like wearing masks, maintaining physical distance and all other related SOPs.
Given that the COVID-19 pandemic does not discriminate between school children and tourists or visitors to public parks, officials must take stringent steps to restrict public gatherings in all areas in its attempt to stem the rising trend of COVID-19 cases. Otherwise, the problem is expected to deteriorate into a massive healthcare crisis.