The Indian Railways which has suspended its passenger services amid the 21-day lockdown to curb the spread of Coronavirus is likely to transform its coaches into quarantine facilities to help the state governments. The Railways is planning to turn the existing coaches into wards where people who need to be quarantined can be placed with medical facilities and food being provided to them within the coach.
This comes after the idea was mooted after Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday told his colleagues to look for innovative ways to boost its medical facilities in view of the virus spreading rapidly. Following the PM’s instructions, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal and Railway Board Chairman Vinod Kumar Wednesday instructed top officials to start preparations.
According to a daily, under this plan, the trains would be transformed into holding centres for patients and paramedical staff who will be treating them. The report states that the exact design is yet to be finalized, however, officials have been asked to take necessary steps to identify areas in their respective divisions where train coaches can be parked. They have also been asked to see that adequate arrangements are made to ensure electricity supply for a longer duration to these coaches.
According to PTI sources, these coaches and cabins could be used as hospitals on wheels with consultation rooms, medical store, ICU and pantry. With the rail network spread across the country, sources added that these hospitals could be set up anywhere where clusters of such infected patients are found but didn't have adequate facilities.
As per the 2011 Census, WHO estimated that India had only 0.7 beds per 1,000 people. While India has targeted to increase this to two beds, WHO mandates for at least 3 beds per 1,000 people in the country.
India entered the third day of a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the novel Coronavirus on Friday. Globally, the Coronavirus has infected 532,120 and 24,084 people have died so far, while in India, 694 cases have emerged with the death toll rising to 16. Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary in the ministry of health, told a press conference that while the "numbers of COVID-19 cases are increasing, there appears to be relatively a stable trend or even little bit reduction in the rate at which they are increasing".
"This, however, does not establish a clear trend and in no way are we relaxed about anything at this point," he added. The government on Thursday announced Rs 1.7 lakh crore worth package for poor people, health workers, employees and poor women to mitigate the crisis that has emerged due to the pandemic outbreak.
(With agency inputs)