National Conference chief and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah on Thursday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to initiate the immediate restoration of high-speed 4G internet services in Jammu and Kashmir amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, PTI reported. The Kashmir Valley reported its first case of COVID-19 on Wednesday, after a woman in Srinagar with recent travel history to Saudi Arabia tested positive.

In a letter to the prime minister, Abdullah, who was released last week following seven months of house arrest, asked him to restore internet services in order to “ease the suffering of the people”.

“As you are aware, the first case of coronavirus was detected in Kashmir yesterday [Wednesday] which has resulted in authorities locking down large parts of the valley,” he wrote. “The people are being advised to work/study from home, but this is impossible with 2G internet speed and limited fixed line internet penetration.”

After the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed, the Jammu and Kashmir administration has renewed the strict lockdown in the Valley by restricting movement in several regions, banning all public transport services, as well as gatherings of large number of people.

The area around the 67-year-old patient’s house in Khanyar has been reportedly sealed off, while health department officials are undertaking door-to-door checkups in the neighbourhood to check for other possible cases. Heavy security arrangements have also been made in the old city of Srinagar to curtail the movement of people.

Abdullah claimed the livelihoods of people, their businesses, and students’ education in the region has already taken a hit since India scrapped the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution on August 5 last year and imposed prohibitory orders.

The Jammu and Kashmir administration on Wednesday once again extended the ban on high speed 3G and 4G internet services till March 26, citing the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of the country. The central government cut off internet services in Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh on August 5 just before imposing a security lockdown.

The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, meanwhile, has banned the entry of foreign tourists. While Jammu has three reported cases of coronavirus, the region is also next door to Ladakh, where at least eight cases have been diagnosed so far. As of March 18, labourers from other states were forbidden to enter Ladakh till March 31.

The number of patients infected with COVID-19 in India so far rose to 173 on Thursday, of whom 19 have recovered and four have died.