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J-K: Schools, colleges to reopen from today, 25k pilgrims to be allowed at Vaishno Devi per day

The Jammu and Kashmir administration said all educational institutions will reopen in the Union Territory from February 1 and 25,000 pilgrims will be allowed at the famous Mata Vaishno Devi shrine per day.

According to revised guidelines on COVID-19 containment measures, it has also put all the 20 districts of the Union Territory in the green category and allowed restaurants and cinemas to operate at full capacity, but asked the deputy commissioners to keep focus on weekly positivity rates, including random sampling in schools.

Member Secretary of State Executive Committee Simrandeep Singh said the ceiling on the number of pilgrims permitted to visit Mata Vaishno Devi shrine at Katra in Reasi district would be revised to 25,000 per day.

The pilgrimage at the shrine resumed on August 16 after remaining suspended following a coronavirus-induced lockdown in March 2020 with a ceiling of 2,000 pilgrims per day.

In a separate order, Singh classified all the 20 districts of the Union Territory in the green category but said Lakhanpur with a buffer of 500 metre radius on Jammu-Pathankot highway and Jawahar Tunnel – the gateway to Kashmir along Jammu-Srinagar national highway would remain in the red zone.

However, the order said there would be no restrictions on entry of passengers, returnees or travellers coming to J-K, whether by road, rail or air.

“They will have to compulsorily undergo a COVID-19 antigen test through any of the prescribed methods as per the protocol of the government of J-K,” the order read.

It said the schools, colleges, higher educational institutions, technical or skill institutions are allowed to open from February 1 as per the SOP issued by the Union Ministry of Education as well as departments of school education, higher education and skill development of J-K government.

“With the opening of educational institutions from February 1, the deputy commissioners are advised to undertake random sampling in different schools in order to keep a constant check on any untoward spike in the infection,” the order said.

It said all district magistrates would keep focus on the positivity rate of closed clustered spaces like public or private offices, malls and markets, and consider implementing staggered timing of operations in case weekly positivity rate goes beyond 10 per cent in these spaces.

“No deputy commissioner or any subordinate magistrate shall impose any local lockdown, outside notified containment zones, without prior consultation with the state executive committee, which shall if required convey its decision only after consulting the Ministry of Home Affairs,” the order said.

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