JAMMU: A day after banning the entry of foreign tourists to the Valley, Jammu and Kashmir administration on Wednesday suspended the Vaishno Devi pilgrimage and all interstate bus services to the Union territory in a bid to stem the spread of coronavirus.
To fight the corona outbreak, the J&K Home Department also accorded sanction for the deployment of 20 deputy superintendents of police to assist district health authorities in tracing the suspected corona-positive people and those who might have come in their contact across the UT and to isolate them for treatment.
"Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Yatra has been closed from today. Operations of all interstate buses -- incoming and outgoing from Jammu and Kashmir, banned from today," the J&K Department of Information and Public Relations (DIPR) said in a tweet.
Thousands of pilgrims from across the country and abroad visit the shrine atop Trikuta hills in Reasi district daily to offer their prayers.
"In view of the advisories issued by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the J&K Government considering the spread of coronavirus, Yatra to the holy Cave Shrine has been closed from today."
"This has been done to ensure the safety of pilgrims and the people at large. The pilgrims are requested not to plan their visit to the shrine till the situation normalises completely," a spokesman for the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board said.
He, however, said that the 'pooja,' 'aarti' and other rituals would be held at the Cave Shrine as usual.
The management of the Chandi Mata temple at Chinote in Bhaderwah area of Doda district also announced the closure of the temple for devotees in view of the emerging situation due to coronavirus.
"The people in general and the devotees are appealed to cooperate with the management which has also decided not to organise any function in the premises of the temple during the forthcoming 'navratras' starting from March 25," a spokesman for the temple said.
He appealed to people to take proper precautions and preventive measures as per the advisory issued by the government from time to time and not to believe and act on any superstitious rumours.
Three persons so far have tested positive for the coronavirus in Jammu and Kashmir, where the government extended J&K Epidemic Disease (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020 to both the divisions of Jammu and Kashmir to step up efforts to tackle the contagious disease.
The government had on Tuesday banned the entry of foreign tourists to Kashmir as a precautionary measure to curb the outbreak and directed tourism department and concerned deputy commissioners to ensure implementation of the order with immediate effect.
The Home Department has accorded sanction to the deployment of 20 deputy superintendents of police to assist the district health authorities in tracing the suspected corona-positive people and those who might have come in their contact across the UT and to isolate them for treatment.
The officers would be deployed at district control rooms, established at district headquarters, by the health and Medical Education Department for a period of three months, an order issued by the Home Department read.
All educational institutions, cinema halls, shopping malls, recreational clubs, hotels and restaurants have been closed, while prohibitory orders banning assembly of five or more persons were imposed in most parts of Jammu and Kashmir since last week.
Meanwhile, Udhampur District Magistrate Piyush Singla suspended public transport including buses and minibuses across the district from Wednesday, making it the second district in the UT to take such a drastic precautionary measure against the spread of infection.
On Tuesday, the district magistrate of nearby Ramban Nazim Zia Khan had ordered the suspension of public transport in the hilly district and closure of hotels and restaurants along the Jammu-Srinagar national highway till March 31.
In another order, Director Floriculture, Parks and Gardens, Jammu Kishore Singh Chib announced the closure of two gardens including the famous Bagh-e-Bahu garden in the heart of Jammu till March 31.
District Development Commissioner, Poonch, Rahul Yadav also announced the closure of all parks in the border district till the month-end while Rajouri-based Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University's Registrar Ashfaq A Zarri ordered the closure of varsity hostels for both boys and girls with immediate effect till further orders.