Budgam villagers worried as COVID cases rise among migrant labourers

Budgam villagers worried as COVID cases rise among migrant  labourers
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Residents of this central Kashmir district are worried after increase in the number of COVID19 cases among labourers who were ferried from outside for working in brick kilns.

Since Monday at least 93 of these labourersworking in different brick kilns have been tested positive for COVID19, raising the alarm among locals who live adjacent to these kilns.

The locals said there were reports that many non-local labourers have gone into hiding after their reports confirmed them having contracted the fatal infection.

A health official said 11-year-old worker was among scores of the labours who tested positive for COVID19 on Tuesday.

"We have locked our family members indoors. These labourers could become potential source of infection within their community as well as in the district," said a local from Gudastho village.

More than 3,000 non-local labourers have been ferried in busses to the village which houses around eight brick kilns.

The local said they were shocked to find the laborers driven to the village amid the pandemic without COVID testing.

"On one hand we have been asked by the government to stay home and suspend all activities to stop spread of coronavirus, but on the other hand these labourers are being ferried in violation of all guidelines and SOPs, risking the lives of locals as well," said another villager.

He said the reports that some of these labourers have tested positive for COVID has left locals shocked.

Locals said on an average 1,000 labourers were being ferried to the villages like Botapora, Banhama-Beerwah, Shoolipora, Nasdullahpora, Waterwani, Wani Hama and Check Beerwah.

At one of the brick kilns in Godsothu. scores of labourers including men, women, children and elderly were engaged in different works, mostly without mask and in violation of social distancing norms.

A 23-year-old labourer from Bihar who has arrived few days ago said he was not tested for COVID19.

"We were only subjected to (thermal) screening to check body temprature," he said. Two other labourers also said they were not tested for Coronavirus.

To a question the labourers said they were not quarantined at all and instead they were asked to board the busses in Jammu and were dropped in the village.

"What is the administration up to? Do they want Budgam should turn into another COVID hotspot?" asked Mushtaq Ahmad, a resident of Godsothu.

Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Budgam, Tajamul Hussain Khan confirmed that 93 migrant labourers were tested positive since Monday.

"As per the SOP, a brick kiln owner has to ensure the labourers follow quarantine procedure once they arrive here," he said.

Asked the labourers were not following the COVID SOP, he quipped, "You better ask this to DC sahab."

Deputy Commissioner, Budgam did not respond to repeated calls for his comments on the issue.

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