With a steep rise in number of COVID-19 cases in India, the Railways’ isolation coaches have finally found takers.
Three states — Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and Delhi — have put forward their requisitions for such coaches from the Railways. While Telangana has requested for 60 coaches for three places, Delhi asked for 10, and Uttar Pradesh sought 240 coaches for 24 places in the state.
These coaches-turned-isolation centres were modified at a cost of ₹2 lakh each and some of these coaches were ready for deployment by April 11, said officials. The Railways’ first such COVID-19 care centre was deployed at Shakur Basti railway station in Delhi on May 31. It consisted of 10 coaches with a capacity of 160 beds.
These coaches can be used for very mild cases that can be clinically assigned to the coronavirus care centres according to guidelines issued by the health ministry.
“Sixty coaches have been requisitioned by Telangana at Secunderabad, Kachiguda and Adilabad. Ten coaches have been requisitioned by Delhi. Each coach has a capacity for 16 beds. However, the composition of the COVID care centres (rakes) will be decided as per the requirements of the state,” said a railway spokesperson.
“As of now, Telangana, which has asked for 60 coaches, will get 960 beds which they can use in the three locations they have identified. Uttar Pradesh has asked for 240 coaches,” the spokesperson added.
Uttar Pradesh, on Thursday, reported 24 more deaths and 478 new coronavirus cases, the biggest single-day spike in both figures so far as the state battles a COVID-19 surge. The death toll in the state stood at 345 after three consecutive days of record highs while the COVID-19 tally reached 12,088. It now has 4,451 active cases.
Telangana has reported 4,111 coronavirus cases so far, while Delhi, which is among the worst-hit cities, has reported 32,810 cases.
India saw the highest single-day spike of 357 fatalities and 9,996 cases on Thursday, pushing the death toll to 8,102 and the nationwide tally to 2,86,579. According to the Union health ministry, the country registered over 9,500 cases for the seventh day in a row, while the casualty figure crossed the 300-mark for the first time.
Amid the surge in cases, Uttar Pradesh has asked for a minimum of 10 COVID care centres coach at 24 railway stations, including Varanasi City, Jhansi, Gorakhpur, Gonda, Bareilly City, Saharanpur, Sonbhadra, Azamgarh and others.
In Delhi, the COVID care centre consists of 10 non-AC coaches with 160 beds and three AC coaches for healthcare staffers, including doctors.
These coaches are the first of the 5,321 coaches which have been converted into isolation wards by the railways for the treatment of coronavirus patients.
According to the integrated COVID plan developed by the health ministry and the NITI Aayog, these coaches can be used in areas where the state has exhausted the facilities and needs to augment capacities for isolation of both suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases.
The train coaches have all necessary medical equipment such as oxygen cylinders, blankets, medical supplies, sterilized berths for the safety and convenience of the individuals placed in isolation. According to the Railway Ministry, these coaches-turned-isolation wards will be equipped with mosquito nets, charging points for laptop and phones. The toilets also have been modified into bathrooms.
Sustaining the fight against COVID-19, the Indian Railways is making an all-out effort to supplement the healthcare efforts of Centre. It has geared up to provide its 5,231 COVID care centres to the state. The Zonal Railways has converted these coaches for quarantine facility.