With isolation coaches finally earmarked for 215 stations across the country, Indian Railways will now have go for the next stage of converting more such facilities as an increasing number of coronavirus (Covid-19) cases are being reported.
“Since there is no sign of abatement of the Covid-19 pandemic, the requirement for more isolation wards cannot be ruled out. So we have to be ready for that scenario,” sources from the railways said.
The decision to convert 20,000 coaches into isolation wards has already been taken while 5,231 coaches were converted in the first phase.
However, sources added that a decision has to be taken for the next batch of conversion shortly. Railways will deploy these coaches at 215 stations in 23 states and Union Territories.
Known as Covid Care Centres, trains consisting of a minimum of 10 isolation coaches and maximum of 22 will move to identified stations to be used for patients in rural as well as urban areas.
These coaches can be used in areas where the state has exhausted the facilities and needs to augment capacities for isolation of both suspect and confirmed Covid-19 cases.
The coaches will be spread across all major hotspots in India. The list includes districts currently in the ‘green’ zones as well as a large number of ‘orange’ zones. The trains will be deployed at railway stations and will be attached to the nearest Covid-19 hospitals.
The railway stations identified in the list include Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata and all major cities in states like Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Haryana, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Tripura, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Karnataka.
The most number of stations are in Maharashtra (21), followed by Uttar Pradesh (27), West Bengal (18), Bihar (15), Madhya Pradesh (14) and Assam (13).
Sustaining the fight against Covid-19, Indian Railways is making an all out effort to supplement the healthcare measures undertaken by the government.
Besides providing quarantine facility, railways production units and workshops are also manufacturing coveralls, facial masks, hand sanitisers among other healthcare kits.
Out of 215 stations, the railways will provide healthcare facilities in 85 stations, and in 130 stations states can request Covid-19 care coaches only if they agree to provide staff and essential medicines.
Indian Railways has readied 158 stations with water and charging facility, and 58 stations with water facility for these Covid-19 Care Centres.
Apart from Covid-19 Care Centres, Indian Railways will deploy more than 2,500 doctors and 35,000 paramedical staff to meet the Covid-19 pandemic challenge.
Doctors and paramedics are being recruited on a temporary basis in various zones. Around 5,000 beds in 17 dedicated hospitals and 33 hospital blocks in railway hospitals, identified for treatment of Covid-19 patients, are getting ready for any contingency.
According to Health Ministry guidelines, state governments would send the requisition to the Indian Railways for care centres. The transporter will allocate coaches to the state and Union Territories.
After allocation, the train shall be deployed at the required stations with necessary infrastructure, and handed over to district collector/magistrate or one of their representatives. Wherever the train is parked, water, electricity, repairs, catering, security services shall be taken care of by the railways.
Arun Kumar Das is a senior journalist covering railways. He can be contacted at [email protected].