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OPINION: Second Wave of Coronavirus is Sparing None. J&K Must Prepare Well for the Battle Ahead

By: Javed Beigh

Edited By:

Last Updated: April 22, 2021, 10:46 IST

A healthcare worker wearing a protective face mask collects a swab sample from a man. REUTERS

A healthcare worker wearing a protective face mask collects a swab sample from a man. REUTERS

Any misconception that the second wave of coronavirus will not hit J&K should be set aside, by looking at the condition of a small state like Chhattisgarh.

As someone, who is currently recovering from a deadly bout of coronavirus infection, I am saying this with the conviction of my own personal experience that the so-called ‘second wave’ of coronavirus is far more infectious and vengeful than the first one. It has been over 10 days since I was diagnosed COVID-positive, and I continue to suffer from classic symptoms of coronavirus, including nagging dry cough, loss of sense of smell and taste, and extreme weakness. While the severity of my symptoms has reduced, I am still not fully okay and I might even suffer from consequences of what is called ‘long Covid’ or lingering long-term health damage, all this in my early 30s.

The evil behind this deadly and extremely contagious second wave of coronavirus in India is believed to be an indigenously mutated Indian strain of coronavirus, which is dubbed the ‘Double Mutant’—so-called because of simultaneous mutation caused not only in the base round body of the coronavirus but also the so-called ‘spike proteins’, tentacle-shaped structures that are attached to the coronavirus, which hooks the entire virus to human body. Unlike the mutations caused in the Brazil and UK versions, which occurred in spike proteins only, the double mutant Indian coronavirus has ‘double’ mutations, which makes it both infectious and deadly at the same time.

According to still-evolving studies, the double mutant Indian coronavirus takes just less than 30 seconds to infect the other person if they are not wearing a mask, unlike 15-20 minutes for the original coronavirus. Also, while the original coronavirus could infect a maximum of 3-5 persons, the double mutant Indian coronavirus can infect up to 25-30 persons. Worryingly, unlike the original strain of coronavirus which would attack nose and develop a cluster of colonies before invading lungs, the double mutant Indian coronavirus is able to directly attack the lungs and damage it within 3-4 days.

No wonder, there has been a nearly sudden exponential growth in the infections across India in just few weeks. At the time of writing this article, India had reported more than 3 lakh COVID-19 cases and over 2,000 deaths in a single day, the highest since the outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China, in 2019.

The Situation in J&K

The Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir has also seen a dramatic rise in the growth of coronavirus cases in the last three weeks, in both Jammu region and Kashmir valley. At the time of writing this article, J&K had witnessed its highest single-day tally of more than 2,000 cases and 14 deaths. The situation remains grim not just in Kashmir valley, which was severely impacted during the first wave too, but also in the Jammu region. Nearly 70 per cent of COVID deaths are being reported from Jammu region this time, although the number of infections is more or less the same in both Kashmir valley and Jammu region.

Hospitals, both private and government, are already full in Srinagar and Jammu city, and while the situation has still not reached the levels of devastation reported in bigger cities like Delhi and Mumbai, the things are fast deteriorating in the entire UT. Also, unlike rest of India, Jammu region and Kashmir valley don’t have the internet culture of asking for medical help for blood plasma, medicines or life-saving injections. Although internet services are now fully restored in all parts of the UT, the people of J&K rely solely upon government and private medical services, which are stretched. Hospitals in Srinagar are also reporting much younger patients with severe breathing problems and pneumonia asking for immediate medical attention.

The urban conglomeration of Jammu city and an almost entire Kashmir valley are especially vulnerable to the exponential explosion of the highly infectious ‘double mutant’ because of their high density of population. The Kashmir valley, in specific, suffered during the first wave not just because of COVID-inappropriate behaviour but also high population density.

Get Ready for the Big Fight

Having said that, J&K still has time. It has not reached the levels of Uttar Pradesh or Maharashtra yet. The UT administration still has time to get its act together and work on various fronts to mitigate the impact of the second wave. Vaccination drive should be expanded and expedited. Unlike bigger states like UP and Bihar, the relatively less populated J&K UT can be easily and rapidly vaccinated without much problem. This would help in taming the spread of this deadly virus in J&K.

Also learning from the experiences of Delhi, UP and Maharashtra, UT administration must make advance arrangement for beds with ventilators, enough oxygen cylinders and life saving medicines and injections that are used for treating the symptoms of coronavirus.

There is no room for complacency. Any misconception that the second wave of coronavirus will not hit either Jammu region or Kashmir valley as severely as other states in India should be set aside by looking at the condition of a small state like Chhattisgarh, which has reported more than 10,000 cases and 150 cases in a day. All administrative efforts must be focused to make sure things don’t escalate to that extent in J&K. There is also a need to enhance and upgrade the medical infrastructure in both Jammu region and Kashmir valley and prepare a contingency plan to set up large-scale temporary medical facilities. Kashmir valley is also home to densely populated Army and paramilitary cantonments, which were also hit hard during the first wave of the pandemic.

Thus, the need of the hour is to execute a holistic plan for entire J&K, keeping in mind the size, diversity and remoteness of the terrain and density of population. This will equip both the administration and the people of the UT to fight better the inevitable second wave of the coronavirus.

Javed Beigh is State Secretary of People’s Democratic Front. He can be reached @Javedbeigh across social media platforms. Views expressed are personal.

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first published:April 22, 2021, 10:46 IST
last updated:April 22, 2021, 10:46 IST