50 isolation coaches, each with 2 oxygen cylinders, placed at Delhi's Shakur Basti rail station

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New Delhi, Apr 18 (PTI) The Northern Railways has deployed 50 isolation coaches, each having two oxygen cylinders, at Delhi's Shakur Basti railway station and 25 such facilities will be placed at Anand Vihar by Monday, General Manager Ashutosh Gangal said on Sunday.

The move came after the Delhi government requested the national transporter to arrange up to 5,000 beds in view of the rising coronavirus cases in the national capital.

These coaches modified for coronavirus patients have been divided into eight bays or 'cabins' with each having 16 beds. Every coach has three toilets -- one western and two Indian style -- and a bathroom with hand showers, buckets, mugs and seating arrangement.

Mosquito nets, bio-toilets, power sockets and oxygen cylinders are available at the coaches. Also, space has been created to hold IV-fluid bottles. Extra bottle holders and clamps have been provided to hang them.

'We have 463 such coaches across our network. Fifty beds have been placed at Shakur Basti and 25 will be placed at Anand Vihar by Monday. We have purchased oxygen cylinders and two such cylinders will be placed in each coach.

'If more is needed, the state government has to arrange it. However, since these coaches are for mild COVID-19 cases, we do not expect huge demand for oxygen,' Gangal said.

With the placement of these coaches, the Delhi region will have an additional 1,200 beds for coronavirus patients with mild symptoms.

The Northern Railway general manager also said that the coaches in both these areas will be placed under a cover or a temporary cover will be provided to bring down the temperature inside.

Asked if the national transporter will charge the states for the isolation coaches, Gangal said there is no provision of levying such charge in the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday said around 25,500 new COVID-19 cases have been reported in Delhi and the positivity rate has increased to nearly 30 per cent in a 24-hour period.

He also said the Delhi government has sought the Centre's help in ensuring adequate beds and oxygen supply for COVID-19 patients.

Earlier, in a letter to Railway Board chairman Suneet Sharma, Delhi Chief Secretary Vijay Kumar Dev said there has been a tremendous increase of COVID-19 cases in the national capital in the recent past, resulting in a high number of serious cases requiring treatment in hospitals.

'In the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi, as of now, the facilities at government and private hospitals available are getting strained and there is an urgent need for more number of COVID bed facilities to cope with the ever-increasing demand of COVID-19 patients who require admissions in hospitals,' he said.

'I, therefore, request you to kindly arrange COVID bed facilities at Anand Vihar and the Shakur Basti railway stations with full logistical support, requisite medical and paramedical staff and oxygen facilities etc. on an emergent basis,' Dev said.

In the letter dated April 17, he also said it would be great if the railways identifies more such facilities 'up to a level of 5,000 beds, as was done last year, so as to meet the huge demand of beds arising out of an ever-increasing surge in positive cases this time in NCT of Delhi'.

Last year, the railways had deployed 813 coaches with 12,472 beds in July with Delhi having 503 such beds, Uttar Pradesh 270 and Bihar 40. However, most of these coaches were not used and complaints about the heat and mosquitoes inside them were raised.

According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare guidelines, the responsibility of maintaining the coaches will be shared by the railways and the state government.

The national transporter will be responsible for the basic infrastructure and maintenance of the premises like cleaning and sanitisation of platforms, providing housekeeping materials like linen and blankets, management of bio-toilets, power and electric supply arrangements, watering, communication facilities and signage and marking of different areas.

It will also provide catering and oxygen cylinders in the coaches. The Railway Protection Force (RPF) will provide security at station premises and the platform area where the coaches have been placed.

The district administration will be responsible for refilling oxygen cylinders, waste disposal, catering, doctors and paramedical staff, ambulance and overall supervision. These railway coaches can be used for very mild cases that can be clinically assigned to COVID care centres, the guidelines state. PTI ASG NSD NSD