Northeast: In India’s Himalayan states, a mighty fightback to Corona

NEW DELHI: India’s ten Himalayan states and union territories – from Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh to Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and the North-East – have shown the way in keeping Covid-19 at bay by reducing its impact to the minimum, through rigorous social distancing practiced by the people and a high cure rate of infected patients shows a detailed assessment done by the Centre.

There is no credence to the theory yet that coronavirus has higher chances of spread in colder temperature. Officials told ET that the hilly north and north-eastern regions of the country had shown a better fight against the disease given their ‘natural advantages’ of less accessibility, less density of population, and most importantly a stricter adherence to the lockdown rules by the locals. “A majority of the cases – nearly half – in these states and UTs were related to the Tablighi Jamaat episode and their contacts. But Nagaland and Sikkim have seen no case while Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh are now Corona-free by successfully treating the few cases they had detected,” a senior official said. Tripura CM Biplab Deb said both positive cases in the state have been cured.

Fight-back in the North

“J&K has emerged as good as Kerala state in fighting the pandemic,” Jitendra Singh, the Minister of State in PMO and Department of North-East Region said. While the UT of J&K has seen 434 cases so far, nearly one-fourth of them have been cured and sent home, which is higher than the country’s recovery rate of about 20 percent. The UT of J&K has also reported the second-highest level of testing as per population in the country after Delhi, by testing about 818 people per million population, the Financial Commissioner of J&K Department of Health, Atal Dulloo told the Minister in a presentation on Friday. J&K is doing 1000-odd tests daily with maximum cases reported from Bandipora, Srinagar, Baramullah and Shopian. Six districts have however not reported any Corona case and Udhampur is now out of hotspot category, the Centre was told. In Ladakh, 14 out of the 18 cases have been cured. “Kargil is now corona-free,” an official said.

While testing is at lower levels in both Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, the cure rate is high with 42 out of 88 patients in both states cured translating to an over 45% recovery rate, as per the Centre. “A nine-month-old child recovered in Dehradun with Uttarakhand seeing no fatality while no native has died in Himachal Pradesh – the two people who succumbed to Corona there came from outside the state. Only three districts in Uttarakhand are now in the red zone while six districts in Himachal Pradesh including big ones like Shimla, Bilaspur, and Kullu are corona-free,” a senior central government official told ET. Over half of the cases in both these states were related to the Tablighi Jamaat. “However, both these states have been told to ramp up testing,” an official said.

In the North-East hill states, a striking feature of the assessment done by the Centre has been a strict adherence to the lockdown by the locals and people observing social distancing norms to the hilt. Manipur CM Biren Singh has said complete co-operation of the people and extensive screening led to the state becoming corona-free and both positive patients in the state being cured now.

Doubt over pilgrimages

The improving Corona situation has however not lifted the cloud of doubt over the upcoming Amarnath Yatra in J&K and the Chardham Yatra in Uttarakhand as both state administrations are mulling over options. The Amarnath Shrine Board had earlier planned to cancel the Amarnath Yatra starting June citing the existence of hotspot areas through which both routes of the Yatra pass and difficulty to set up pilgrim camps or eating facilities there and mulling options of doing pooja at the sites but only offering online darshan to pilgrims, but has for now held on to its final decision. The Board has suspended advance registrations till May 4.

The Chardham Yatra will also not be starting before a final decision on the lockdown comes on May 3. While the Kedarnath temple will open on April 29 in the presence of select priests and the Badrinath temple will open on May 16, a decision on allowing pilgrims to undertake the Yatra is under doubt due to corona.

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