TIRUCHY: Not just moving essential commodities during lockdown, the Indian Railways is playing a key role in the country’s battle against COVID-19. With the number of people testing positive for the disease increasing by the day, Southern Railway (SR) is working on a war footing to convert coaches into isolation wards. The Railway Board on March 31 directed SR to ready 473 isolation coaches/wards. On April 3, the target was revised to 573. The Tiruchy division was initially told to convert 25 coaches, but it has now been revised to 30.
“We are using 15-year-old coaches for conversion to isolation wards. These coaches can accommodate eight to 16 patients. Also, they have space to accommodate paramedical staff,” a senior railway official said. Most of the divisions would achieve the initial target in a few days, he added.
Though ready, the converted coaches are unlikely to be put into use immediately. Sources said these would be stationed at strategic locations and would be the country’s Plan-B to handle any emergency.
“Coaches converted by the Tiruchy division would be stationed in four or five locations like Tiruchy, Tiruvarur, Villupuram and Mayiladuthurai. If Tamil Nadu or any other State faces difficulty in arranging isolation facilities, these hospitals on wheels would be moved there,” an official said.
In a worst case scenario, newer coaches may also be converted, sources hinted. “Currently, SR can convert 30 isolation coaches in 10 days. A workshop can convert 100 coaches or more in the same period. In an emergency, we can roll out isolation coaches in no time,” a source said.