Amid spike in coronavirus cases, India boosts capacity for tougher challenges ahead
New Delhi: Amid looming fears of coronavirus infection entering the community transmission stage, India is boosting its overall health infrastructure by initiating measures like designating dedicated hospitals for affected patients in states, ramping up procurement of ventilators and mobilising resources of Railways and armed forces to deal with any eventuality.
Even though the Health Ministry and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) have been insisting that there is “no solid evidence” of community transmission so far, the government has started scaling up health infrastructure to deal with any situation.
India is under a 21-day lockdown from Tuesday midnight as part of efforts to check spread of coronavirus.
In an urgent communication, the Centre has asked all states to earmark hospitals only for treating COVID-19 patients and ramp up their capacity to manage increasing number of cases. At least 17 states have started work on it.
The armed forces are keeping ready 28 service hospitals to provide treatment to COVID-19 patients apart from five hospitals which are carrying laboratory tests for the infection.
Defence public sector undertaking Bharat Electronics Limited has been tasked with manufacturing ventilators while premier defence research laboratory DRDO is producing protective gears for medical personnel and supplying hand sanitisers and face masks to various agencies involved in patient care.
On Friday, the government granted emergency financial powers to Army corps and divisional commanders to procure equipment to set up medical and quarantine facilities for affected people.
On its part, the railways has manufactured a prototype of an isolation ward for treating coronavirus patients by converting non-air-conditioned train coaches. Once the best practices were finalised in the next few days, each railway zone would manufacture a rake with 10 coaches every week, the national transporter said.
Doctors at leading hospitals on Friday expressed fear that India ran the risk of seeing the viral transmission in stage three of infection if the lockdown and quarantine norms were not diligently complied with.
As part of its preparation to deal with large volume of cases, the Centre has also directed the states to keep some beds reserved for creating isolation facilities in public and private hospitals and ensuring that stable patients are discharged as early as possible.
The health ministry has already asked hospitals and medical education institutions to procure sufficient number of ventilators and high-flow oxygen masks to be prepared for any possible influx of patients.
The AIIMS has set up a task force to develop management protocol for COVID-19 and has constituted several committees to be able to respond to challenges which may come across in coming days due to the rising infection, officials said.