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India’s armed forces stave off deadly 2nd Covid wave thanks to vaccines, strict protocols

Nearly 90% of armed forces personnel have been double vaccinated, and now, Army is increasing medical capacity to help civilian administration.

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New Delhi: Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, there have been about 52,000 cases and 140 deaths among the nearly 17 lakh armed forces personnel in India, ThePrint has learnt. And, even as the civilian population has been badly hit by the second wave of coronavirus in the last couple of months, the armed forces have been largely safe — thanks to nearly 90 per cent double vaccination and strict protocols implemented by the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Now, with the possibility of a third wave looming, the Army has increased its medical capacity across the country, while also helping the civilian administration in tackling the coronavirus.

According to figures accessed by ThePrint, the armed forces are currently registering about 200 Covid-19 cases every day, with the Army alone accounting for about 140 of them. But, significantly, most of these cases are mild and haven’t required hospitalisation.

“The vaccine has really helped. There were few cases that needed hospitalisation, but most cases were milder. Nearly 90 per cent of the deaths in the armed forces were of those who had comorbidities like cancer, heart issues or diabetes,” a source in the Army establishment said.

The source said only 0.40 per cent of vaccinated soldiers got Covid, and that only 0.004 per cent — that is, 1 per cent of those who got the disease — had to be hospitalised.

A second Army source said: “In the Army, the average daily case load was over 200 during the peak of the second wave; it has come down to about 140 now.”

The second source said the majority of the cases were from the peace stations (urban areas), and not at the frontlines, where the number cases had dropped drastically compared to last year.

Sources also attributed the fewer cases to the strict protocols put in place by the armed forces.

“When Covid began last year, a series of instructions were issued, which dealt with quarantine and movement. These protocols were not really diluted even when the cases had come down earlier this year. Those at the front had a different set of protocols,” a third source said.

“There were some cases last year because of mobilisation of troops for Ladakh, but stricter norms were followed, which ensured much less cases this time around.”

Also read: What’s DGAFMS, Indian military’s medical wing leading the fight against Covid

Cases among personnel, dependents, veterans

According to official figures presented to Parliament by the government in March this year, 119 armed forces personnel died of Covid-19 while 44,766 contracted the infection across the three services.

The data accessed by ThePrint now showed that as of 19 May, the total number of Covid cases among serving armed forces personnel is 52,000, while 14,000 of their dependents have tested positive too. Among ex-servicemen, the corresponding figures are 9,000 and 6,000.

While the second wave of Covid surged, the number of active cases in the armed forced increased from 1,067 on 18 April to 5,134 on 10 May.

Last month, ThePrint had reported that 99 per cent of the 13 lakh-strong Army had received the first dose of the Covid vaccine, and 82 per cent had received the second dost. Sources said now, about 90 per cent of soldiers have got the second dose too.

Increasing capacity to fight Covid

The Army is using the emergency financial powers extended by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to purchase key equipment like oxygen concentrators, oxygen generation systems and additional beds.

On 18 April this year, the Army had about 1,800 oxygen supported beds, but the number has now been increased to 5,000. The number of oxygen storage rooms has more than doubled to 50 from 24 in the same period, while 93 oxygen generation plants have been set up.

The number of oxygen concentrators has been increased to 4,700 from 3,300.

(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)

Also read: Armed forces plan to hire 400 retired military doctors to assist in fight against Covid


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