A police line in south Kashmir has emerged as the new Covid-19 hotspot in the Valley with 78 police personnel — posted at the Anantnag District Police Lines (DPL) — testing positive.
Officials are perturbed as many of those who tested positive were posted at the mess and clothing stores or manned the gates. It has also triggered panic among residents who fear the infection may spread to other parts of the district as the police have unhindered access to people’s houses during search operations and are at the forefront of anti-militancy operations that have recently intensified.
While officials attributed the surge to aggressive contact tracing and testing, police sources said there was no immediate contact tracing and quarantining of the suspected cases even after a Special Police Officer tested positive two weeks ago when health officials were carrying out contact tracing of a traveller from Jammu. Only a few police personnel were initially put under quarantine. Follow Coronavirus India LIVE Updates
“There is one SPO who has acted as a super spreader. The SPO’s brother had travelled from Jammu and he was positive,” said Dr Peerzada Farhat, Nodal Officer (Contact Tracing). “The sudden surge you see is a result of our aggressive contact tracing.”
During a screening last Wednesday, eight personnel at the DPL, which has district police and Armed Police reserve battalion personnel, tested positive. Another 14 tested positive the next day with a senior officer of the armed police requesting another screening — 55 tested positive on Monday.
Anantnag’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Mukhtar Ahmad said the wife of a policeman from Jammu also travelled to Srinagar and tested positive. “I think she has a bigger role in the spread of the infection. Her father has also tested positive,” Dr Ahmad said.
A senior police officer said, “There are reports of policemen found positive from all across Kashmir. But in other districts, this has been controlled very well and the cases haven’t been allowed to go beyond five or six… But in Anantnag, we see it has gone almost out of control. It needs to be probed what led to this sudden surge and where the district administration showed laxity.”
Anantnag was the last district in J&K to report its first Covid-19 infection on April 16. It now has the highest number of cases in J&K, with 236 testing positive so far.
“Police are present everywhere. When we are stopped at a checkpoint for frisking or our house is searched, how do we know that the policeman is not infected?” said a resident of Anantnag.
Anantnag SP Sandeep Chaudhary said the development will not affect law and order or anti-militancy operations. “The 18 cases from district police are linked to manpower deployed in DPL. The 55 cases are from IR 11 Armed Battalion which is a separate unit,” he said. “The anti-militancy operational units of police and those who deal with law and order are not linked to these cases. It won’t have any impact on routine policing.”
On alleged laxity in contact tracing, the SP said, “The first link to DPL emerged on May 3 and sampling of the contacts of that civilian was done the same day. The results of that group came on May 6. Results for the group came negative except one. As per the retest protocol, re-sampling of the group was done on May 8 and 11 and results on May 13 showed positive for the group.”
Chaudhary said “on their contact tracing, sampling was done on May 14 and results received on May 17 showed positive for 13 persons”. “The entire contact trail for district police was traced, tested and sent to Covid facility. The sampling for IR 11 Armed battalion was done on May 16 and 55 results from that unit came positive,” he said. “All the policemen, who tested positive, were immediately transferred to Covid facility provided by the district administration. During this contact tracing and testing exercise, more than 250 policemen were tested.”
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