MUZAFFARABAD: The Azad Jammu and Kashmir government on Sunday announced withdrawal of relaxations in the lockdown from Tuesday following “dangerous” surge in the Covid-19 cases in the territory.

“In view of the tendency of rapid outbreak of Covid-19 and increase of patients to a dangerous level, the government is suspending relaxations in the lockdown from Monday-Tuesday midnight,” read a notification issued by the AJK home department.

“There will be complete lockdown that had been imposed earlier on March 23 under Epidemic Diseases Act 1958,” the notification added.

After intense pressure from the business community, the government, under the assumption that the pandemic had not hit AJK as badly as it had affected other parts of the country, relaxed the lockdown on April 24.

Rapid increase in the number of positive cases baffled the government, sources told Dawn.

Complete lockdown to be imposed from Tuesday under Epidemic Diseases Act

According to cabinet member and spokesperson for the AJK government Dr Mustafa Bashir Abbasi, there were 60 positive cases between March 26 and April 30 across AJK but the number surged to 112 by May 17.

“In Muzaffarabad, where there were only six patients until May 1, the number rose to 34, which is “more than alarming. What’s worrisome is the emergence of many of these cases during random sampling in different neighbourhoods of the state capital,” Mr Abbasi said, adding two patients were in critical condition.

The attitude of majority of shoppers and visitors left little doubt in the fact that either they were totally oblivious of the danger or had been taking it too lightly, he said.

In a statement, AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider said his government was compelled to withdraw relaxations in the interest of safety of public at large.

“I had been constantly calling upon people to avoid unnecessary travel, visits to marketplaces and any other steps that violate social distancing… and after detection of several positive cases during random sampling [in Muzaffarabad] most of my concerns have come true,” he said.

Mr Haider said neither business nor festivals were worth a human life and therefore people should stay indoors and celebrate the upcoming Eid with simplicity.

The AJK prime minister held a meeting with transporters earlier in the day and declared that inter-provincial and intra-AJK transport will continue to remain suspended at least until Eidul Fitr.

“I have conveyed a loud and clear message to my administration that anyone violating the conditions of lockdown should not be spared, come what may.”

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2020