Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir administration on Saturday extended the COVID curfew, which was suppose to end on May 23, by another week till May 31 in all 20 districts of the Union Territory amid no letup in the number of fresh coronavirus cases and deaths.An official said COVID curfew imposed in all 20 districts of J&K till 0700 hrs on May 24 has been extended further till 0700 hrs on May 31. ‘Curfew will be strict except for a few essential services,’ he said, adding Deputy Commissioners have been given limited flexibility to ensure economic activities do not suffer.

This is the fourth successive extension of COVID curfew in the valley since April 29. The extension has come in the backdrop of no letup in the number of COVID-19 cases in J&K, particularly the summer capital, Srinagar, which has recorded the major chunk of positive cases during the last over a month.As many as 3848 people, including 2406 from Kashmir and 1441 from Jammu, tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday in the UT, where 43 people lost their lives due to the infection. Srinagar recorded the highest number of 598 positive cases on Friday, followed by Jammu with 401 cases. Barring Shopian, all the districts in Kashmir division had positive cases in three digits.

However, ignoring personal safety, besides appeals by ulmas and religious scholars to adhere to COVID curfew imposed to break the chain, people are still
hitting the streets in the valley, where thousands of violators have been fined and arrested while hundreds of vehicles have been seized since April 29.

On April 29, the  Jammu and Kashmir administration imposed curfew in 11 districts to curtail the spread of COVID-19, which was subsequently extended to
all the 20 districts in the Union Territory the next day. The curfew that was supposed to end on May 3 was extended in Srinagar, Budgam, Baramulla and Jammu till May 6. However, the Deputy Commissioners of the remaining seven districts in the valley extended the lockdown till May 6 separately. The COVID curfew was later extended till May 10 and then till May 17. The lockdown was again extended till May 31 on Saturday by the administration.

The administration last month ordered the closure of all universities, colleges, schools, and coaching centres in the Union Territory till May 15 though teaching and non-teaching staff was asked to attend schools and colleges. But, the J&K administration later allowed teaching and non-teaching staff to stay home in view of a surge in COVID-19 cases in Jammu and Kashmir. The closure of the educational institutes was later extended till May 30.

Teachers, however, are conducting online classes from home in the valley though many students alleged that they were unable to attend these classes due to non-availability of smart phones.