Army Chief General M M Naravane has said that the Army is undertaking its operational tasks and there is no effect of the coronavirus outbreak on its operational preparedness. At the same time, there are contingency plans in place at six hours’ notice, he said, including a 45-bed isolation facility and 10-bed ICU for COVID-19 at field hospitals, and mobilisation of Quick Reaction Medical Teams on call.
Asked about the possibility of the Army being called in to help fight the outbreak as in some other countries, General Naravane said that “the Indian Army is of the people and for the people of India” and “is mandated to provide assistance to civil authorities whenever called for”.
In an email interview to The Indian Express, he said that “whenever the Government assigns a particular task in future, the Army will execute the same to the best of its capability.”
As “there is likely to be an increase in demand for medical services for both infected and suspected cases within the Indian Army as also requisition from civil administration in the coming days”, the Army Chief said that the Army had already sent instructions to augment medical facilities and infrastructure.
These include: increasing the capacity for surveillance and isolation at Military, Base and Command Hospitals; setting up a 45-bed isolation facility and a 10-bed ICU facility at field hospitals exclusively for COVID-19 patients at six hours’ notice; keeping 30 per cent of Field Hospitals on standby for constructing COVID hospitals in COVID hotspots; preparing Quick Reaction Medical Teams to mobilise at six hours’ notice.
Admitting that it is “difficult to say how the situation will develop”, General Naravane said that the Army had started planning and preparing “after having analyzed the impact of COVID-19 over last two-three months in other countries”. He said that “the Army has certain inherent capability to rise up to various emergency situations by virtue of organisational structure and training. And in keeping with that, the Indian Army is planning and preparing to fight COVID-19.”
The Army Chief said that he was personally “reviewing the situation on daily basis” and was in “touch with the Army Commanders and Principal Staff Officers. Various advisories and instructions have been issued to the environment to create awareness and contain spread of COVID-19.”
“Speaking in military language,” General Naravane said that “at present COVID-19 is in preparatory stage of impact in India and we are making concerted efforts to prevent COVID-19 from establishing a firm base. Concurrently, we are preparing for stringent counter measures, should COVID-19 manage to (get) a foothold.” And the “next few weeks will be crucial” to prevent the negative effects of the virus.
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