AJK tightens measures to enforce lockdown

Updated March 25, 2020

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Only one positive coronavirus case found in the region. — AFP/File
Only one positive coronavirus case found in the region. — AFP/File

MUZAFFARABAD: The Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) government on Tuesday tightened and toughened measures related to enforcement of a complete lockdown of the territory to prevent transmission of Covid-19, as samples of five more suspected cases were sent to the National Institute of Health (NIH) for screening, officials and witnesses said.

Health Minister Dr Najeeb Naqi told Dawn that five fresh samples — two from Mirpur and one each from Muzaffarabad, Bagh and Bhimber — were sent to the NIH on Tuesday, raising the total number of suspected cases in AJK to 65.

Of the 42 received results, only one was positive and the rest negative, he said, the victim was being treated in a health facility in Mirpur.

Mr Naqi said that the remaining 23 results were likely to be received from the NIH “within a day or two.”

He said presently 66 persons were in quarantine facilities in the state.

Meanwhile, the AJK authorities on Tuesday completely sealed all entry points, making it clear that even pedestrian crossings at entry points would not be allowed.

No vehicle, except for those ferrying essential commodities, would be allowed to ply on the streets, declared a high-level video link meeting presided over by Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider.

“Due to the increasing threat of coronavirus transmission, no person will be allowed entry in AJK, not even those state subjects who are either permanently residing in Pakistan or have travelled there in connection with any engagement,” Mr Haider said on the occasion.

“I call upon all such people not to travel back to their hometowns [in AJK] for one month… These measures are for the protection of the lives of your near and dear ones,” he added.

Reports from across AJK said that public transport remained off the road and businesses, except for the grocery stores, fruit and veggie shops and pharmacies, shut.

Law enforcement personnel reprimanded people who could not give a plausible explanation of their presence in the streets.

In Muzaffarabad, deputy commissioner (DC) Badar Munir conducted surprise visits in several neighbourhoods to inspect observance of lockdown.

“We are a bit lenient today because many of them had got stuck up after sealing of entry points at past midnight. From tomorrow onward, no excuse will be entertained,” DC Munir told Dawn by telephone from a main thoroughfare.

To a question on closure of mosques, he maintained that no decision had been made as yet by the government in this regard.

He, however, expressed the hope that the faithful would exercise caution on their own.

Published in Dawn, March 25th, 2020