COVID-19, also known as the Wuhan virus, originated in China in end 2019 and spread across the world like wildfire causing nationwide lockdowns severely affecting businesses and normal life which led to impairment of world economy. The first wave lasted till Oct 2020. The world slowly recovered from the affects. India was one of the few countries to have a vaccine of its own and also facilitate its mass production. India started the largest vaccine program of the world on the eve of new year 2021. When it seemed that all will be well, the country was hit by second wave of COVID-19 which was deadlier and more virulent. A majority of young population was hit very badly. The second wave lasted from Feb 2021 to July 2021. After the second wave experts predicted that a third wave was also likely to hit which may be equally deadly. The state of Jammu and Kashmir has also suffered at the hands of COVID-19 in terms of life and business. All the schools and colleges are closed for almost two years. More than three lakh COVID-19 cases have been registered in Kashmir with over four thousand fatalities. In this article we will discuss about how the Kashmiri society has coped with COVID-19 and how alert and aware they are about the upcoming third wave.
Kashmir has a very supportive and inclusive society. The people rose up to help each other during the second wave by providing as much help as possible, even going beyond the call of duty at times. They provided food to the needy, essential supplies to those who were quarantined. A lot of selfless volunteers rose up to the occasion and played a significant role in responding timely to avoid a major debacle. Despite government infrastructure being under tremendous stress, they still were able to cope with the pandemic. The society volunteer groups have learnt from past mistakes and are now working to mitigate the effects of a likely third wave.
Although the NGOs operating in Kashmir are generally cash strapped and coupled with marginal government support their work becomes all the more difficult, yet, this time they rose to the occasion. In Ganderbal district, there is Hope Disability Centre, an NGO, which has done stellar work in providing food, ambulances, medicines and distributing other essentials to the needy. According to the manager there has been no dearth of volunteers in Kashmir. Another NGO Al Khadim has also provided people with emergency assistance and meals in three districts. The NGO has also helped a very badly affected section of society, the transporters. The local mosques also collected monthly donations and provided people with food, oxygen cylinders and other essentials.
Security forces have always helped the local populace of Kashmir in the times of need. Medicines, sanitizers, masks have been provided along with other support materials. Security forces can also provide awareness through regular medical camps and their personal conduct to better equip the local people to avoid the third wave altogether or at least mitigate its effects.
Society must take precautions to avoid the next wave. There is a need of aggressive measures to prevent another large wave till vaccination kicks in. Use of masks in crowded areas, speedy public vaccination drive, maintenance of hygiene and stocking of essential medicines and oxygen must be ensured by government as well as community. Srinagar is already coming up as a flash point in terms of current rise of COVID-19 cases. Proper adherence to government guidelines in terms of quarantine must be followed.
COVID-19 is likely to become an endemic and will resurface in clusters for years to come. The few weapons we as a society have are vaccination and precautions. The Kashmiri society seems to have learnt from past mistakes. Almost 40 % have taken first dose of vaccine and the rest are also lining up to get vaccinated. As a society due to its strong interpersonal ties Kashmir is likely to handle the third wave and emerge stronger.