The rising number of positive coronavirus cases in India has pushed the government to close its railway and convert railway carriages and stadiums into quarantine camps to contain anticipated surge in the cases.
India’s railway network is the world’s fourth-largest rail operator and India’s oldest and biggest employer has been shut for the first time in 167 years after PM Narendra Modi imposed a total lockdown on March 25.
Sources reveal that Indian Railways begun converting 20,000 carriages into medical facilities last week Wednesday, with each carriage fitted with 16 beds to accommodate up to 320,000 patients.
Each carriage will have nurses’ stations, doctors’ cabin, and space for medical supplies and equipment and once ready, the trains will be sent to locations that facing challenges of hospital beds due to a potential rise in positive cases.
Already India is operating 125 hospitals with expertise to stretch into mobile beds. Health Ministry and Local Health authorities stated that they will assign government paramedics, nurses, volunteers and doctors to work in the trains.
Railways Minister Piyush Goyal said the government has instructed railway factories to assess the feasibility of manufacturing hospital beds, stretchers, medical trolleys, masks, sanitisers, aprons, and medical apparatus such as ventilators to be used in railway and government hospitals.
“Now, the railways will offer clean, sanitized and hygienic surroundings for the patients to comfortably recover,” Goyal said in a tweet.
Executive Director of Information at the Railway Board Rajesh Dutt Bajpai said that the first 5,000 isolation wards will be ready in two weeks and more carriages can be converted within two days. Indian Railways operates more than 20,000 passenger trains daily across India.
The lockdown has rendered over 67,000 kilometers of track useless with thousands of passenger trains lying idle. Only freight trains are in operation.
Indian is also converting sports stadiums into isolation camps and temporary hospitals, borrowing a leaf from countries which resorted to a similar measure to contain the coronavirus novel.
In New Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has directed the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium to be converted into a quarantine centre to deal with the rising numbers of Covid-19 patients in the populous city.
Prime Minister Modi ordered a nationwide lockdown for 21 days March 25, affecting the entire 1.3 billion population of India but despite the lockdown they continue to record rising Covid-19 cases this with authorities confirming a total of 4,067 cases, 292 recoveries and 109 deaths.
Experts point that the number of infections will increase as India’s testing rates are among the lowest in the world and the most affected countries.