NEW DELHI: The Indian Air Force airlifted from abroad 47 oxygen containers with a total capacity of 830 metric tonnes while defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs) are procuring 28 oxygen plants and other medical equipment worth Rs 40 crore to help the civilian authorities in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
These details emerged at a video conference chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday where he reviewed efforts of the armed forces, DPSUs and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in India's fight against the pandemic.
In the meeting, DRDO Chairman G Satheesh Reddy said the first four out of 380 oxygen PSA (Pressure Swing Adsorption) plants being manufactured under the PM-CARES fund will be deployed in hospitals in Delhi by next week.
Hospitals in Delhi and various other parts of the country are reeling under a severe shortage of medical oxygen, critical medicines and beds in the wake of surging COVID-19 cases.
The defence ministry said Singh was briefed that approximately 600 additional doctors including retired ones are being mobilised through special measures.
It said the Indian Navy has deployed 200 battlefield nursing assistants to assist in various hospitals.
Similarly, the National Cadet Corps (NCC) has deployed 300 cadets and staff at various locations in Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Haryana.
The Indian Army has made available more than 720 beds for civilians in various states.
The meeting was attended by Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria, Chief of Army Staff General M M Naravane and DRDO Chairman Reddy among others.
The defence minister directed the Army to share the details with local administration at the state and district levels, the ministry said, adding Gen Rawat suggested that local military commands have to be actively engaged in assisting the civil administration.
In his remarks, Singh asked the armed forces to provide all necessary assistance to the civilian administration and asked the officials of his ministry and the three services to closely monitor the progress of various initiatives.
The defence ministry said Singh was briefed that a 500-bed hospital being set up by DRDO in Lucknow will start functioning in the next two-three days.
Another hospital is also being set up in Varanasi and the work on it is scheduled to be completed by May 5.
The ministry said transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out several sorties from Singapore, Bangkok, Dubai and within the country, while the Indian Navy dispatched four ships, two to Middle-East and two to South East Asia, to bring filled oxygen containers to India.
"As on May 1, IAF carried out 28 sorties from abroad, airlifting 47 oxygen containers with 830 MT of capacity, while from within the country, it carried out 158 sorties, airlifting 109 containers with 2,271 MT capacity," the ministry said in a statement.
The Navy and the IAF have also supplied nearly 500 portable oxygen cylinders from their stores to various civilian hospitals.
"DPSUs are procuring 28 oxygen plants and other medical equipment worth Rs 40 crore under CSR (corporate social responsibility) for supplying to various hospitals in states," the ministry said.
It said Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has set up a 250-bed hospital in Bengaluru and another 250-bed hospital is being set up in Lucknow.
On Friday, Singh granted emergency financial powers to the three services to allow formation commanders to establish and operate hospitals as well as quarantine facilities for COVID-19 patients.
The emergency powers have been granted initially for a period of three months from May 1 to July 31 and are in addition to the similar powers delegated to the medical officers of the armed forces last week.