Nearly 270 train coaches-turned-makeshift Covid-19 wards, to treat those with mild symptoms, were deployed at the Anand Vihar Railway Station on Tuesday, across its seven platforms. Five trains that had been running to and from the station will now operate from the Old Delhi Railway Station until further orders.
Officials said the coaches are ready to be used, as and when the government needs.
The development comes two days after the Centre had promised Delhi 500 such coaches to fight the Covid-19 crisis, after the Capital reported a surge in numbers and the government said it expects to see nearly 550,000 cases by July-end.
As per the Delhi Corona app, the Capital as of Tuesday evening has 10,500 Covid-19 beds, fewer than half of which are currently vacant.
Delhi on Tuesday recorded 1,859 new cases, taking the tally to 44,688. The government’s bulletin recorded new 93 deaths on the day as well.
With the Delhi government exploring spaces like banquet halls and hotels to convert into facilities to treat Covid-19 patients, the remodelled railway coaches equipped with oxygen cylinders, beds, and bathrooms have presented themselves as another alternative for the state government.
Over 40 such coaches were stationed at platform numbers 4 and 5 of Anand Vihar station on Tuesday.
Deepak Kumar, chief public relations officer (CPRO) of Northern Railway, said another 50 coaches had already been deployed in Shakur Basti railway station’s washing area, Kumar said. Of these, 10 were deployed on May 31, and 40 on Sunday.
“Around 170 will be deployed at the platforms and 100 more parked near the washing area at Anand Vihar station. The location for the remaining coaches will be decided in consultation with the Delhi government in the coming days,” Kumar said.
While food, electricity, and water will be provided by the railways,the Delhi government will be charged with the management of patients and nominating a hospital to operate Anand Vihar Covid care centre.
The Delhi government said the coaches will be used as Covid Care Centres, where patients with mild symptoms of the infectious disease, and who cannot isolate at home, are treated.
“The railway coaches will be for mild cases of the disease. The government is still working out the plan for the staff. On site, at present, arrangements for oxygen and other equipment are currently underway,” said a government spokesperson.
When asked why the coaches at Shakur Basti were yet to be used, despite being placed on May 31, the above quoted government spokesperson added, “The facility is on a requirements basis. Currently, we don’t need to use all the facilities at one go.”
The metal plates on the sides of coaches that usually display the train route, now read “Covid-19 isolation” instead. Each blue and beige non-AC coach, brought in from Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana, has three oxygen cylinders and can accommodate 16 patients — two in each coupe. The first coupe equipped with oxygen cylinders will be reserved for medical staff, and is separated from other coupes by a plastic sheet.
Each coupe is equipped with two power sockets, and two dustbins, apart from fans, lights and mosquito nets that are fixed to the windows.
The toilets have been remodelled to function as a bathing area.
With vestibules on either end of the coaches sealed, movement between rakes will be restricted. In addition to the non-AC coaches, two AC coaches have been deployed per platform, for medical equipment, staff members, and other facilities.
Kumar said that since the trains were parked near the shed, the temperature would remain bearable. “In areas where there are no sheds, we are in the process of using bubble sheets on the roofs of the coaches that can help bring down the temperature inside the coaches by three-four degrees,” he said.
Personnel at the station on Tuesday were busy putting up flex boards demarcating different areas on the platform, to be used for patients to enter and exit. Station manager Om Kumar said the area leading to the platform has ramps and if needed, ambulances can take patients onto the platform as well. Officials also said the entire area will be limited only to permitted staff members once all the coaches are put in place.
With the entry and exit point of Anand Vihar railway station barricaded and manned by paramilitary personnel, the area outside the terminal mostly bore a deserted look, barring a few workers carrying medical equipment like oxygen cylinders, masks, nasal prongs, personal protective equipment kits and disposable bags, among other things, into the station from the divisional hospital at Mori Gate. A few passengers who reached the station, unaware of the latest development, were told by Railway Protection Force guards that their trains would now operate from Old Delhi railway station.