Military leads from the front in war against coronavirus pandemic - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 25 March 2020

Military leads from the front in war against coronavirus pandemic

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 26th Mar 20

On Wednesday, the first day of the 21-day countrywide lock-down that Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Tuesday to contain the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, a military facility in Jodhpur received 277 Indian evacuees flown in from Iran and placed them in quarantine for the next 14 days.

The military has already housed over 1,200 patients so far in temporary medical facilities at Manesar, Hindan, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur. These included evacuees from Wuhan and Japan, who were discharged after observing full quarantine protocol.

“Of the over 1,200 evacuees, medical staff and air crew kept in these facilities till now, only one case of positive Covid-19 has been reported so for. This does not include another case reported from the IAF facility in Hindan,” stated the ministry of defence (MoD) on Wednesday.

“In addition to the above, more Army medical facilities at Jhansi, Binnaguri and Gaya are kept at standby with a additional collective capacity of 1,600,” said the MoD. 

The military is mobilizing to play a central role in holding patients exposed to the Covid-19 virus. Most countries seriously impacted by the virus, including China, Italy and the US, have pressed their militaries into service. 

In New York city, US Army engineers are converting New York City’s main convention centre – the Javits Center – into a 1,000-bed hospital. 

The patients quarantined in Jodhpur on Wednesday include 273 pilgrims to Iran, including 149 women and six children. They were transferred on Air India flights from Delhi to Jodhpur and then taken to the medical facility, “which has been designed not just for isolation but also mental and physical wellness, which includes various activities including sports,” said the MoD.

Meanwhile, the Indian Navy has set up a quarantine camp at Vishakhapatnam, which is fully equipped to quarantine nearly 200 personnel. In addition, the navy has set up isolation facilities at its premier hospital, Indian Navy Hospital Ship (INHS) Asvini, at Mumbai.   

The naval base at Kochi, which houses the Southern Naval Command headquarters, is coordinating with Kerala state health officials and Ernakulam district administration to use civilian hotels/resorts as quarantine facilities for Indian nationals, says the MoD. 

The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), which produces arms, ammunition and equipment for the military, has separately designated 285 beds as Covid-19 quarantine facilities. These include 40 beds in Jabalpur, thirty beds each at Ishapore, Cossipore, Khadki, Kanpur, Khamaria and Ambajhari; 25 beds at Ambernath and 20 beds each at Avadi and Medak.

The OFB is utilizing its facilities to try and manufacture personal protection equipment and face masks, in accordance with a pilot order placed by HLL Lifecare Limited, a public sector unit under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

While the army continues functioning normally on the borders, officers posted in headquarters – who amount to 40 per cent of the overall cadre -- have been asked to function from home. 

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