NEW DELHI: Keeping the accentuated state of the COVID-19 pandemic, defence minister Rajnath Singh reviewed the efforts of Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the three Services to fight the COVID-19 crisis through video conferencing today.
The Armed Forces and the other departments of the MoD have augmented their support to deal with the soaring COVID cases which is leading to scarcity of beds and oxygen. The defence minister directed the Armed Forces and various other establishments of MoD to extend all possible assistance to the civilian administration to tide over the present situation.
He also reviewed and expressed satisfaction on the assistance being provided by the Indian Air Force (IAF) in moving oxygen tankers and plants from abroad as well as within the country. During the review, the Air Force informed of placing heavy lift aircraft at various locations to pick and transfer the required material.
"One C-17 IAF transport plane left for Singapore in the morning of April 24 and returned in the evening with four containers of cryogenic oxygen tanks. One C-17 transported two empty container trucks for liquid oxygen from Pune to Jamnagar and another transported two empty oxygen containers from Jodhpur to Jamnagar," MoD spokesperson Bharat Bhushan Babu said.
"One Chinook airlifted medical equipment for testing COVID from Jammu to Leh. Indian Navy ships have also been put on standby for any assistance in moving oxygen tankers and the Raksha Mantri was informed of the same, " he added.
In addition, the Indian Air Force has positioned one empty cryogenic oxygen container from Indore to Jamnagar and another from Bhopal to Ranchi. Positioning of another empty container from Bhopal to Ranchi and two empty containers from Hindan to Ranchi was in progress late evening.
DRDO chairman Dr G Sathish Reddy briefed that another 250 beds would become functional at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel COVID hospital in New Delhi by the evening of April 24, taking the total number of beds to 500. In Gujarat, DRDO has completed setting up of a 1,000-bed hospital.
Dr Reddy added that work was in full swing to establish a COVID facility in Lucknow that would become operational in the next 5-6 days. These hospitals would be run by the Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) in coordination and with assistance of respective state governments.
Senior officials of the Ministry are in constant touch with the officials of state governments for necessary coordination in this regard.
As AFMS has its resources stretched to the limit, services of local doctors and health professionals might be enlisted for the 750-bed hospital that is coming up at Varanasi. To augment the work force of health professionals, Rajnath approved a suggestion to deploy those who have recently retired from AFMS.
He was briefed that all health facilities of Defence PSUs and Ordnance Factory Board have been allowed to provide health services to local COVID-19 affected civilian population.
This was the second meeting chaired by Raksha Mantri to review the preparedness of MoD and the Armed Forces to deal with the current surge in COVID-19 cases. The first meeting was held through video conferencing on Tuesday.
Apart from Reddy, the meeting was attended by Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, three Service Chiefs, defence secretary Ajay Kumar, AFMS DG Surgeon Vice-Admiral Rajat Datta and other senior officials.
The AFMS has deployed additional doctors, including specialists, super specialists and paramedics, at Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (SVP) COVID hospital in Delhi to cater to the current surge in COVID-19 cases.
As against 294 doctors and health workers in 2020, 378 have been mobilised in 2021. These include 164 doctors in 2021 as against 132 doctors in 2020. Last year, only 18 specialists were mobilised, as against 43 specialists and 17 super specialists this year.
Keeping the requirements Indian Navy has moved one ship to Lakashwadeep and Minicoy islands with Oxygen cylinders, medical supply and medical support team. Also, one ship sent to Visakhapatnam as a standby with Oxygen onboard. Indian Navy Medical Teams have also been deployed as part of the AFMS staff and Naval Commands told to identify the spare capacity to assist civil administration.