Although Kashmir hasn’t been hit by the COVID-19 coronavirus yet, the new travelers from the worst-hit city of Qum, Iran has alarmed the Kashmir valley.
The last few weeks have seen several students and pilgrims from Iran return back to the Kashmir valley. Among them, a significant number have arrived from the province of Qum, the religious capital of Iran, which is amongst the severely affected cities by the deadly coronavirus.
The fear crept into the valley when reports from Tehran and Qum suggested that a massive outbreak of coronavirus has led to the death of over 26 people so far. Qum, being the religious capital of Iran, oversees a population of a million and over 20 million visitors as religious pilgrims.
Despite it being termed as the second epicenter of the coronavirus after Wuhan where it first broke out, the Iran government has failed to take accurate measures to keep the situation under control. The city, as of now, remains open to travel.
Every year thousands of students and pilgrims visit Iran from Kashmir. The last few weeks have seen the arrival of many such tourists and students from the plagued region. Although none of them have yet been quarantined and no confirmed case of coronavirus detected, but that does not mean the officials can breathe a sigh of relief.
Ahead of this development, the Government of India has issued advisories and has made an appeal to avoid travel to Iran, North Korea, and Italy unless it is absolutely necessary. New Delhi has also directed the officials to keep those in quarantine who possess a history of travel to the above countries since the 10th of February.
Post the reported coronavirus deaths in Iran, several airlines that were scheduled to visit the country have been canceled. Currently, around 300 Kashmiri students are awaiting to be evacuated from Iran.
Dr. S. Khan, the Nodal officer of Jammu and Kashmir looking after the coronavirus outbreak, speaking to the media, assured that advisories have been circulated in the valley since the notification from the Government of India.
Taking a cue from Iran’s mismanagement, India should look after the situation with urgency and utmost care. Although the lockdown of Jammu and Kashmir is a blessing in disguise now, there haven’t been any travel bans yet on Kashmir.