With the number of COVID-19 cases doubling every four days or so, India is preparing for the worst-case scenario by keeping around 4 lakh beds ready for patients by April 30.
Sources confirmed to The Indian Express that various arms of the government, which have been supplementing isolation and quarantine facilities, have been indicated this projection following a meeting of one of the empowered committees formed by the government to fight the outbreak.
For instance, Indian Railways, which has so far issued instructions to turn 5,000 train coaches into isolation units to house 80,000 patients, may have to keep producing more, it is learnt.
On Monday, deliberations in the Railways — based on inputs from higher levels — was to remain “prepared” to surpass the 5,000 mark and keep churning out more isolation units. Sources said a formal instruction to all zonal units will go out only after assessing the situation in a week.
While the Railways had identified 20,000 coaches as its overall capacity, it has issued orders to convert 5,000 non-AC coaches into isolation units. By Monday, it had already converted around 2,500 coaches into isolation units. With its current design, each coach can accommodate 16 isolation beds.
A train coach converted into a coronavirus isolation ward being disinfected at Tikiapara railway car shed, Howrah. (Express photo by Partha Paul)Read | DRDO nod to coverall suits made by Railway workshop
“We have been given to understand that isolation coaches will be deployed in the worst-case scenario as a last line of defence. Also, if requirement arises in remote areas where public health facilities cannot handle a growing number of positive cases,” a top source told The Indian Express.
The HRD Ministry has also offered its Navodaya schools for isolation and other medical needs during the outbreak.
On March 24, Education Secretary Amit Khare wrote to all state chief secretaries offering Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs) for setting up temporary medical facilities or “quarantine camps for isolation”.
Following this offer, 32 JNVs across 13 states have been identified and are currently being used for isolation, even as the Employees’ Welfare Association of JNVs has objected to the move. Another 80 schools have been identified and inspected by the district authorities for use as isolation centres. Of the 32 JNVs, almost half are in Jammu & Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh alone.
The Navodaya Vidyalaya Employees Association has written to the HRD Minister, expressing concern over the safety of teachers and their families who live on campus in such schools that are being used as isolation centres.
With more people requiring isolation, the number of people requiring quarantine will also increase, as per the government’s assessment. In internal deliberations in a relevant empowered committee, it was suggested that home quarantine should be the first resort to reduce load on public infrastructure.
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