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Covid-19 testing on Jammu-Srinagar highway infuriates motorists

A new controversy surrounding the establishment of a Covid-19 testing centre on the national highway connecting Jammu and Srinagar has taken place. Travellers are complaining that they are being forced to halt their journeys to take tests. 

The authorities have defended the decision by saying that this decision has been taken in order to stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

They said that the new centre at Udhampur’s Chenani area is just a new branch of two already established centres at Ramban and Jawahar Tunnel that are located at 40 and 100 km respectively. The Union Territory administration is paying for the rapid antigen testing at Chenani centre.

The Udhampur district administration issued an order on November 10 directing all passengers travelling between Srinagar and Jammu, through private or passenger vehicles, to get tested at the centre for Covid-19. Only those are exempt who have the results of a recently-conducted Covid test.

Traffic police estimates that on an average over 1,000 light motor vehicles travel between Jammu and Srinagar everyday. Sources in the Jammu and Kashmir administration said that

the centre managed to conduct 125 tests on its first day of operation yielding a negative result for all those who got tested.

Travellers who frequently travel through the highway told that there was no compulsion by the authorities to take tests when the centres were at their earlier locations. Authorities denied the claim.

A student from Kashmir’s Bandipora area named Yawar Ahmed said that his journey was delayed by many hours because of being stopped at the centre for the testing.  He had to pick up a car from Jammu and bring it back home. He thought that it will be a day’s job, but he had been waiting for his turn to get tested for hours.

A senior government official told ThePrint that there was no sudden growth in the number of Covid-19 cases in Udhampur or Jammu to warrant necessary testing at the centre.

The government figures state that J&K has reported over 1 lakh Coronavirus cases by now, of which 5,578 were active as of last Thursday. Jammu has 1,588 active cases while Kashmir has 3,990. By now, there have been 527 Covid deaths in Jammu and 1,039 in Kashmir.