New Delhi. 27 March 2020. The Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) has deployed all resources at its disposal to aid the civilian authorities, shouldering responsibility in the time of extraordinary crisis.
Lt Gen Anup Banerji, DG Armed Forces Médical Services in an online interaction stated that six quarantine facilities run by the Armed Forces are currently operational at Manesar, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Chennai, Hindan and Mumbai. “So far, a total of 1,463 people, including foreigners, evacuated from COVID-19 affected countries have been housed and observed at these centres. Of them, 1,073 persons are presently under quarantine and being provided proper care. These include evacuees from Iran, Italy, Japan and Malaysia, besides the IAF and medical crew. Three hundred ninety evacuees from China, Japan and IAF evacuation flight crew have been discharged following completion of their mandatory quarantine period.”
He informed that three positive COVID-19 cases have been reported, so far – two from Hindan and one from Manesar. They were referred to Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi for further treatment.
In addition to the active quarantine centres, more facilities have been readied and may be made operational within 48-72 hours, if needed. These facilities are at Kolkata, Visakhapatnam, Kochi, Dundigal near Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kanpur, Jaisalmer, Jorhat and Gorakhpur.
The DG AFMS said that 28 Service Hospitals have been earmarked as COVID hospitals for managing purely Corona virus cases. This will include Armed Forces as well as civilian patients transferred from state health authorities, in case their capacity is overwhelmed. He added that as of now, there are five hospitals across Army, Navy and Air Force which can carry out COVID test. These include Army Hospital Research and Referral, Delhi; Command Hospital Air Force, Bangalore , Armed Forces Medical College, Pune; Command Hospital (Central Command) Lucknow and Command Hospital (Northern Command) Udhampur. Six more hospitals are being equipped shortly with the resources to begin testing.
Lt Gen Banerji also informed that as of now, only one serving soldier has been tested positive of COVID-19. He was on leave at his home in Leh, taking care of his father who had returned recently from Iran and suffering from COVID. The soldier has recovered. The DG AFMS added that isolation wards at peripheral hospitals have been activated at Army formations along Line of Control and Line of Actual Control. “Intensive information, education and communication campaigns are going on for serving personnel. Leave extension of those on leave as well as curtailment of leave to bare minimum have been imposed. Segregation facilities have been set up to observe troops already back from leave from various states,” he said.
A 14-member team of medical officers and paramedical staff of Army Medical Corps was sent to the Maldives for capacity building measures and assist in setting up their own testing, treatment and quarantine capacities. The team stayed in the Maldives for 10 days and returned back on March 23, 2020. Lt Gen Banerji said, apart from the Maldives, AFMS is ready to dispatch a Rapid response Team to Nepal for assisting them with the COVID situation there. He added that other assistance for other countries will be provided as and when required.
On the availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), the DG AFMS said, it is a challenge at national as well as global level, adding that advisory for rational usage of PPE has been issued to the Services. “The AFMS is presently geared up with adequate PPEs for use in our hospitals. Additional procurement is also being planned to tide over crisis foreseen during the coming weeks and months since the Armed Forces have been directed to augment medical resources for the civil health set up also,” he added.
The AFMS has suggested setting up of medical facilities within train coaches in case of any eventuality. Various advisories have been issued by AFMS on social distancing, cancellation of courses and training, use of masks, preventive measures to be taken at workplace and guidelines on COVID surveillance and contact tracing.