One in five at Kashmir jail tests positive as India COVID cases soar

SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - One in five prisoners at the largest jail in Indian Kashmir has tested positive for the coronavirus, authorities said on Friday, as the health ministry reported a daily nationwide rise of more than 60,000 cases for the third straight day.

India is the world’s third worst-hit country, behind only the United States and Brazil, with more than 2.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases, according to a Reuters tally.

And numbers are expected to rise in coming weeks, as infections move deeper into the vast hinterland.

Authorities at the central jail in Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar said they were preparing to shift some prisoners after 102 of the 480 tested positive.

“We are taking extra care and all new entrants are being tested and then quarantined for two weeks,” V.K. Singh, Kashmir’s Additional Director General of Prisons, told Reuters.

The Kashmir valley has reported more than 20,000 cases, of which nearly 5,500 people remain currently infected.

Racked by a decades-long insurgency, Kashmir is claimed in whole by India and neighbouring foe Pakistan but ruled in part by each.

Indian-ruled Kashmir has been put under a cycle of coronavirus-related lockdowns since late March. But cases are continuing to rise, putting pressure on medical infrastructure, doctors said.

Dr Nisarul Hassan, an associate professor at Srinagar’s Government Medical College that has around 2,200 beds, of which some 350 are for COVID-19 patients, said resources were stretched.

“Our hospitals are full with COVID-19 patients. We are running out of oxygen beds,” he said, “Patients have to wait for ventilators as there are not enough of them.”

Like many other Indian cities, Srinagar’s administration has also converted some buildings into temporary coronavirus facilities adding 3,000 beds, with another 2,000 beds in the pipeline.

Reporting by Fayaz Bukhari in SRINAGAR; Writing by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Nick Macfie