Indian Railways had earlier identified 20,000 coaches as its overall capacity, for providing isolation facility to individuals with symptoms or to COVID-19 patients.
Indian Railways now aims for converting more train coaches into isolation wards, in a bid to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases across the country, the government is now preparing for the worst-case scenario and aims to keep around 4 lakh beds ready by April 30, 2020. According to an IE report, based on the inputs from the higher levels of the government, Indian Railways is to prepare more number of isolation coaches and surpass the initial target of 5000 beds, marked for the first phase. Hence, formal instructions will be issued to the respective railway zones to keep converting more train coaches into quarantine facilities.
As of now, a total number of 2,500 train coaches have been modified into isolation wards, which is half of the initial 5000 mark. It is expected that once all 5000 coaches will be ready, as many as 80,000 patients can be accommodated in the facilities. Indian Railways had earlier identified 20,000 coaches as its overall capacity, for providing isolation facility to individuals with symptoms or to COVID-19 patients. With the current design of the coaches, each modified train coach can accommodate 16 isolation beds. Sources quoted in the report stated that the isolation coaches will be utilized as a last resort of defence, to be deployed in hotspots. They might also be used in some of the remote areas of the country, where the public health facilities cannot handle the growing number of positive COVID-19 cases.
Meanwhile, apart from the conversion of train coaches, Indian Railways has taken a slew of measures to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic. IRCTC has been involved in distributing free lunch meals to the underprivileged at several railway stations. The IRCTC base kitchens, which are located in many areas across the network, have been preparing bulk meals for the same.
The Indian Railways freight operations have been at the forefront of delivering essential commodities across the country. Essential items such as milk, sugar, food grains, vegetables, fruits and other such items have been transported by freight trains to various locations, for sustaining the supply chain during the ongoing lockdown.