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Two journalists in A JK contract virus

MUZAFFARABAD: Two TV journalists and as many of ficials of the health ministry of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) tested positive for Covid-19 on Saturday, pushing the region`s tally to 59, a cabinet member said.

Dr Mustafa Bashir Abbasi, spokesperson for the government and minister for information technology, told Dawn that the Muzaffarabad based reporter and cameraman of a private TV channel had tested positive, in addition to two staff members of health minister Dr Najeeb Nagi.

Last week, health minister`s driver had also tested positive following which he himself had gone into quarantine.

On Friday, the minister tweeted that he and his family members had tested negative.

Mr Abbasi said the four new cases in Muzaffarbad had raised the number of affected persons in the capital to six while the overall tally had swelled to 59.

Of these 59, he said, 32 had already recovered, three on Saturday.

As Saturday was the first day of relaxation of lockdown in AJK, many customers and visitors were seen swarming the markets and bazaars, triggering frantic calls f rom civil society activists and health practitioners for the strictest measures to contain the pandemic.

`What is the logic behind opening the whole markets and allowing people to go and travel without any precautionary measures? The government must reconsider its decision of relaxation,` wrote Rabia Hassan, an educationist, on a social media platform.

Deputy Commissioner Muzaffarbaad Badar Munir told reporters that visits had been conducted in different markets of the city and two shops were sealed for violation of the standard operating procedure and several others were given strong warning.

`This is a test case for the traders. If they ensure strict adherence to the precautionary measures, the relaxation will remain in place for a month. Otherwise, the government will be left with no choice but to withdraw its decision,` he said.

According to Mr Abbasi, the unnecessary gatherings and crowds in the markets had also greatly dismayed Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider.

`The Prime Minister has made it clear to the business community and general public that if they f ail to follow the recommended precautionary measures then government will review its lockdown policy,` he said.

The minister said that all authorities concerned had been clearly and strictly directed to take stern action against those who were not observing the requisite precautionary measures. Tariq Naqash