Authorities in both the regions are taking measures to curtail the spread of the virus
Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) is one of the less-affected areas as coronavirus continues to spread exponentially across the country. According to health authorities, nine people have tested positive for Covid-19 in AJK. Three of them belong to Mirpur district, four to Bhimber district and two to Palandri district.
State health authorities have told The News on Sunday that 37 quarantine centres have been set up in AJK at three hospitals namely Abbas Institute of Medical Sciences, Muzaffarabad; Combined Military Hospital, Muzaffarabad; and Combined Military Hospital, Rawalakot. The divisional headquarters hospitals (DHQs) at Mirpur, Rawalakot, Jhelum Valley, Neelum Valley, Bagh, Haveli, Sudhanoti, Bhimber, Kotli and New City Mirpur have also been provided with the necessary equipment. The CMHs in Muzaffarabad and Rawalakot, rebuilt by the United Arab Emirates following the October 2005 earthquake, are equipped with state-of-the-art medical facilities. Authorities say the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is working on setting up two testing laboratories in Mirpur and Rawalakot.
Several steps have been taken by the AJK authorities to stem the spread of the virus. These include declaration of a health emergency ahead of the provinces; ban on entry of new tourists; scanning at entrances to the state; and a three-week lockdown. A monitoring cell has been set up at the Prime Minister’s House to monitor the situation and coordinate activities with other stakeholders, including the federal government and adjacent provinces.
Over a million citizens of Azad Kashmir live and work abroad, particularly in the UK, Europe and North America. They have been advised to avoid visiting the region. Still, during the last six weeks over 3,000 overseas Kashmiris have arrived in AJK. The authorities are trying to locate them so that they can be tested for infection.
AJK and GB have always been short of funds for equipment like ventilators and for state-of-the-art laboratories. A significant chunk of financial resources is now being diverted to obtain the equipment and to set up laboratories. The Kashmir Orphan Relief Trust (KORT) Mirpur, a non government organisation, has donated six ventilators to district hospitals in Mirpur, Kotli and Palandri.
Despite the growing threat from the pandemic on both sides of the Line of Control sporadic firing along the LoC has continued.
Gilgit-Baltistan appears to be one of the most Covid-affected regions in Pakistan. A sizeable number of pilgrims returning from Iran, without proper medical screening and treatment, are believed to have contributed to the massive spread of the virus.
In Gilgit-Baltistan, 184 cases of Covid-19 have been reported and there have been two deaths from the disease. Four villages have been declared a Red Zone in Nagar district of Baltistan division. The Pakistan Army has established 10 quarantine centres and has promised to establish two coronavirus testing laboratories in Gilgit and Baltistan. The GB government has also established 48 quarantine and isolation centres where over 300 patients are admitted. A disinfectant spray has been done in highly affected areas.
The writer is an analyst based in Islamabad and Rawalakot. He can be reached at [email protected]