With Covid-19 cases increasing by the day and likely to spike in the days to come, the Army has formed responsive and agile Quick Reaction Medical Teams (QRMTs) which are on six hours standby notice to mobilise to help hospitals and civil administration if needed, Army Chief General Manoj Naravane said here on Friday.
He also said contingency plans are ready, adding this responsibility will not affect its operational readiness. The Army has code named its anti-Covid-19 operations as Operation Namaste.
Highlighting some of the measures taken by the Army in the last few weeks, Naravane said all field hospitals were instructed to be ready to set up a 45-bed isolation facility.
And also to create 10 bed Intensive Care Unit (ICU) facility exclusively for COVID-19 at six-hour notice. In addition, 30 per cent Field Hospitals have been kept on standby for constructing COVID-19 hospitals in coronavirus hotspots, he said.
Noting that at present COVID-19 is in “preparatory stage of impact in India” and the country is making concerted efforts to prevent the disease from establishing a firm base, he said “next few weeks will be crucial to prevent negative effects of this deadly mutant virus.”
On the possible contingency options that may arise as the cases continue to rise, Naravane said, at this juncture, it is difficult to say how the situation will develop. “However, after having analysed the impact of COVID-19 over last two-three months in other countries, one can start planning and preparing for difficult times.”
On the Army’s operational preparedness, he said the Army has certain “inherent capability” to rise up to various emergency situations by virtue of organisational structure and training and in keeping with that, the “Indian Army is planning and preparing to fight COVID-19.”
While reviewing the situation on a daily basis, the Army Chief said various advisories and instructions have been issued to the force to create awareness and contain spread of COVID-19. “Command wise COVID-19 helpline numbers have also been given,” he stated.
The Army currently has wellness centres for evacuees at Manesar, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur and Army medical facilities at Jhansi, Binnaguri and Gaya have been kept on standby with an additional collective capacity of 1,600 beds. Naravane said till now 372 evacuees have been treated at Manesar and currently 82 are under quarantine. At Jaisalmer 484 citizens who were evacuated from Iran are under quarantine and another 277 at Jodhpur, he added.
Meanwhile, the Army has asked its personnel on leave to extend their stay and not report to their formations till April 15 in wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak. This order was part of the fresh advisory issued after one soldier in Ladakh was tested positive after he returned from home where his father, who had earlier returned from Iran, was also tested positive. The soldier has recovered.
Moreover, conferences and seminars and temporary duty of all ranks also stand cancelled till April 15. Also, those working in the Army Headquarters here are directed to work in shifts to ensure less contact and reduce footfall in offices.
Chipping in for the national effort to fight the pandemic, 62 Cantonment Boards spread over 19 States and Union Territories, across the country, with a population of approximately 21 lakh (including military and civil) have geared up to the challenge. Instructions have been issued to all the Cantonment Boards to identify beds in hospitals/health centres and guest houses for any eventuality.
Presidents and Chief Executive Officers of the Cantonment Boards are in constant touch with civilian authorities in their respective areas and providing required assistance whenever needed. All the advisories issued by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare are being strictly adhered to by all the Cantonment Boards.
All the Cantonment offices buildings, residential areas, school premises, libraries, parks and markets are being sanitised regularly. Residents are being sensitised about the COVID-19 via public announcements through loud speakers, informative notices, hoardings/pamphlets displayed at all prominent places, offices and market areas in cantonments.
Residents Medical Officers are organising workshops for all the personnel dealing with essential services and demonstrating precautions to be taken in avoiding transmission of COVID-19 and simultaneously preparing Cantonment General Hospital (CGH) for any emergencies. Action plans have been prepared in the light of directions of Director General Defence Estates (DGDE). All CGH are working full time to provide required medical assistance.
Cantonment Boards are providing face masks, hand gloves, sanitiser bottles to the entire staff. All the hotels and restaurants in cantonment areas are directed to strictly follow advisory.