Stating that the battle against COVID-19, which he termed “Operation Namaste”, will be won, Army Chief General M M Naravane on Friday asked soldiers to follow the government-ordered lockdown wherever they do not have any operational role.
General Naravane said “force protection” is his priority and asked Army personnel who spend time in close quarters in forward posts or in tanks to remain fit. He assured soldiers posted at border areas that their families will be well taken care of.
Preparing for the fight against the pandemic in the country, 28 Armed Forces hospitals have been earmarked as COVID hospitals, Director General of Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS), Lieutenant General Anup Banerji, said.
He said these hospitals will “include armed forces patients as well as civilian patients transferred from state health authorities, in case their capacity is overwhelmed”.
He said five hospitals from the Army, Navy and the Air Force are conducting coronavirus tests using the RT-PCR methodology, and six more hospitals will be equipped soon with the resources to begin testing, taking the total to 11 service hospitals in the country.
Lt Gen Banerji said that within the Army, isolation wards at peripheral hospitals in forward formations have been geared up and intensive campaigns to make the personnel aware are being carried out. “Leave extension of those on leave as well as curtailment of leave to bare minimum have been imposed. Segregation facilities have been set up to observe troops already back from leave from various states,” he said.
While the Army at present has six quarantine facilities — at Manesar, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Chennai, Hindan and Mumbai —where 1,463 people evacuated from coronavirus-affected countries have been accommodated, the forces are setting up more such facilities at Kolkata, Visakhapatnam, Kochi, Dundigal, Bengaluru, Kanpur, Jaisalmer, Jorhat and Gorakhpur. These can be ready within 72 hours, if needed, it was informed.
The 62 Cantonment Boards have been instructed to identify beds in hospitals and health centres and guesthouses for any eventuality.
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