To help in the fight against coronavirus, Indian Railways is offering its coaches as isolation wards in case of contingency. Indian Railways had earlier committed to convert initially 5,000 coaches into isolation wards for coronavirus patients and within a week it has met half its goal. With the conversion of around 2,500 coaches, 40,000 isolation beds are now ready for contingency.
The different zones of Railways had to first get the prototype of isolation ward approved, after which it took on the conversion exercise. On an average, 375 coaches are being converted by Indian Railways in a day. The work is being carried out at 133 locations in the country.
These coaches are equipped as per medical advisories issued. Earlier reports had said that only non-AC ICF sleeper coaches are planned to be converted to quarantine coach. Director General Railway Health Services had issued detailed standard operating procedure for operation and use of these quarantine train coaches.
Some of the recommendations were to convert first cabin into store or paramedics area, with facility of setting up two oxygen cylinders. Middle berth has to be removed and extra bottle holders to be added in each cabin for holding medical equipment. It also said that extra three peg coat hooks, two per cabin, is to be provided, along with mosquito net on windows. Each cabin will be provided with three dustbins of red, blue and yellow colour with foot-operated lids suitably lined with garbage bags. The coaches are to be insulated for heat with bamboo/khus mats at the roof and sides. Some other protocols included all charging points to be functional and amenity fittings to be in place, upholstery in good condition and broken panels replaced.
It may be noted that these isolation coaches are being prepared only as a contingency and to supplement the efforts of the Ministry of Health in fighting the COVID-19.