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India locks down disputed Kashmir region after first coronavirus case reported

A soldier stands guard at a roadblock in Kashmir imposed amid coronavirus fears [AFP/Getty]

Date of publication: 19 March, 2020

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Roadblocks have been imposed across the disputed region of Kashmir as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus.
India locked down the disputed region of Kashmir Thursday after it reported its first case of coronavirus.

India, along with other countries in the region, is also beginning to impose restrictions on public gatherings in a bid to slow the spread of the virus.

Dozens of Kashmir residents told Reuters that roads blocked by police prevented them from leaving their neighbourhoods Thursday.

Srinagar's senior superintendent of police Haseeb Mughal told Reuters that road blockades had been imposed in the valley region.

"I had to go to take my mother to hospital in Srinagar but the police has closed the road," Mohammed Ayub told Reuters.

"I am waiting here for the last two hours. I can't even go home now as the road is blocked due to a traffic jam."

The Muslim-majority region of Kashmir, which was stripped of its semi-autonomy by New Delhi in August, reported its first case of the virus on Wednesday.

New Delhi locked down the region and detained thousands of politicians and activists in August, bringing in tens of thousands of troops into the already heavily militarised territory.

Restricted Internet access was allowed in late January after a blackout lasting almost six months.

The security lockdown and detentions have drawn international criticism including by the European Union and the United States.

In other measures, India closed the iconic Taj Mahal to visitors from Tuesday as part of measures to try and combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Most schools and entertainment facilities, including cinemas, had already been closed across India, the world's second-most populous country with 1.3 billion people.

The South Asian nation has reported 174 positive cases and three deaths from the virus, according to Worldometer.

Worldwide, the number of deaths has passed 8,000 with more than 220,000 infections in 176 countries and territories.

Read more: The pogrom in Delhi is only the start of the spectre looming over India

India has also suspended all incoming tourists, and will bar passengers of flights from the European Union, the European Free Trade Association, Turkey and the United Kingdom from Wednesday.

Travellers coming from or transiting through the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine when they arrive in India, the government announced late Monday.

Arrivals from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, France, Spain and Germany are already subject to similar restrictions, while most border points with neighbouring Bangladesh and Myanmar have been shut.

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