New Delhi: The Army is in the process of setting up ad hoc isolation facilities with a total capacity of nearly 16,000 people, as India gears up to isolate and test more suspected Covid-19 patients.
According to the Union health ministry figures (updated until Friday afternoon), the number of Covid-19 cases in India has climbed to 2,301, while the death toll has risen to 56.
Sources told ThePrint that in addition to the existing quarantine facilities set up by the Army, all six commands will set up ad hoc isolation facilities, which can cater to 15,700 patients if needed.
A senior Army officer told ThePrint that field hospitals may be roped in for the purpose. Army Public Schools, Kendriya Vidyalayas and other grounds may also be used to create infrastructure for these facilities, which can be made available at short notice.
How the armed forces have been helping
The armed forces have increased their assistance to civil authorities in the last few weeks, since the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. Together, the Army, Navy and Air Force are running six quarantine facilities at Mumbai, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Hindon, Manesar and Chennai, in which 1,737 people have been housed, and 403 released so far.
Another 15 facilities are being kept ready as standby for use, if required.
A government statement Friday said three positive Covid-19 cases — two from Hindon and one from Manesar — were referred to Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi for further treatment.
The statement said that dedicated Covid-19 facilities including high dependency units. Intensive care unit beds are being prepared in 51 hospitals of the armed forces across the country, including at Kolkata, Visakhapatnam, Kochi, Dundigal near Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kanpur, Jaisalmer, Jorhat and Gorakhpur.
Five viral testing labs, which can carry out Covid-19 tests, have been operationalised, including at the Army Hospital (Research & Referral) in Delhi; Air Force Command Hospital, Bengaluru; Armed Forces Medical College, Pune; Command Hospital (Central Command), Lucknow; and Command Hospital (Northern Command), Udhampur.
Six more hospitals will begin testing soon.
At a recent review of the preparations by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat had said hospitals have been identified to exclusively deal with Covid-19, and more than 9,000 hospital beds have been made available.
Help for neighbouring countries
Special flights of the Indian Air Force have evacuated people and carried medical supplies.
A C-17 Globemaster III has carried 15 tonnes of medical supplies to China and, on the return flight, airlifted 125 persons, including five children, mostly Indian nationals and few citizens from friendly countries.
The C-17 Globemaster III also went to Iran and brought back 58 stranded Indians that included 31 women and two children. The aircraft has also brought 529 samples for Covid-19 testing.
A defence ministry statement added: “The C-130J Super Hercules aircraft has ferried around 6.2 tonnes of medicines to Maldives. An Army Medical Corps team with five doctors, two nursing officers and seven paramedics was deployed in Maldives for capacity building measures and assisted in setting up their own testing, treatment and quarantine facilities between 13-21 March 2020.”
The IAF’s transport fleet is assisting in transportation of essential supplies, medicines and medical equipment.
“So far, approximately 60 tonnes of stores have been airlifted to various parts of the country. Twenty-eight fixed wing and 21 helicopters are on standby at various locations across the country,” the statement said.
Six Naval ships loaded with medical team and HADR bricks are kept on standby for assistance at Visakhapatam, Kochi and Mumbai to respond to any requests from neighbouring countries like Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, it said. Five medical teams are also on standby for deployment in Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Afghanistan, it added.