Armed forces playing major role in war against COVID-19 second wave

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Armed forces role in fight against COVID

Delhi, May 7
The country is in the midst of second wave of COVID-19 pandemic. Needless to say, that whenever the nation is in peril, armed forces can never be too far away. Over the last few weeks, armed forces have risen to the clarion call of putting up a united front against the pandemic and have been deeply committed in providing necessary support to various Govt institutions and State Governments.

From providing trained medical officers and paramedical staff for easing the medical stress at various locations to flying numerous sorties for ferrying critical supplies from across the globe, and from repairing defunct oxygen plants to shipping medical supplies from ports in East and West, the armed forces have been in the thick of action, right from the word ‘go’.

The hospitals setup by DRDO at New Delhi, Patna, Ahmedabad, Lucknow and some other places that are scheduled to come, such as that in Varanasi, are all being manned by more than 500 armed forces doctors and nurses. Packed in PPE kits with adult diapers on, these men and women in uniform have been rendering yeoman service round the clock in these makeshift COVID care facilities.

A large number of Battle Field Nursing Assistants (BFNAs), soldiers/sailors/airmen, who are trained in basic medical care, have also been deployed to assist the trained workforce.

Needless to say, that all these medical efforts are in addition to maintaining very high levels of military prowess along the borders, maritime boundaries and air space above. While the services are maximising on personnel and military resources to provide succour to the needy, there is no upper limit that needs to be done in these testing times.

Having vaccinated close to 98% of the workforce, the services are pitching in every field of national effort towards COVID relief while maintaining seamless coordination with Government machinery to ensure optimisation of medical efforts. Concerted efforts are also in hand to upgrade the facilities of armed forces’ hospitals which are being run beyond their capacity by the depleted medical manpower.

A number of Army vehicles, Naval ships and Air Force aircrafts are shuttling every day to ferry oxygen generators, medical supplies, lab equipment and medical personnel to COVID hotspots from domestic sources and abroad. Apart from the domestic flights, scores of sorties have been undertaken by IAF to get medical supplies and oxygen generators from Germany, Singapore, UAE, Oman, UK, Australia and Thailand.

Indian Navy Ships are bringing in shipments of critical items including oxygen generators and cylinders from Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Singapore. The Navy has also proved to be the lifeline for our island territories. Heavy load carriers TATRA vehicles and military grade railway bogies of the Indian Army are moving heavy machineries, oxygen generators and cryogenic tankers to ensure their timely delivery. In these testing times, numerous in-house innovations have been made by the services to maximise on available resources. Additionally, procedures have been optimally modified to ensure better numbers for bed availability, and expansion of medical resources to unimaginable limits.

Launched in 2003, the purpose of Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) was to provide quality medical care to our veterans and their families, because of the limited capacities of Military Hospitals. However, since the empanelled civil hospitals have been hard pressed to provide adequate medical support, most veterans have been denied admissions which has further increased their dependence on the already over stretched military hospitals.

Although at this juncture, no one stands to have preference over anyone else when it comes to saving lives, limitation of resources is the only impediment when it comes to caring for our veterans. The denial of medical support by ECHS empanelled civil hospitals in these testing times do raise many pertinent questions with regard to the efficacy of this initiative. Armed Forces would have to take a hard look on this issue to identify better fail-safe options in times to come.

To augment the ongoing COVID efforts, initiatives like SeHAT OPD, an internal online consultation platform for providing medical consultations to armed forces personnel and their dependents, eSanjeevani (https://esanjeevaniopd.in) the online consultation platform of MoHFW utilising the expertise of serving and retired service doctors have started to pay rich dividends. Additionally, to ensure that the supplies of critical medical equipment are dispatched immediately on arrival from friendly foreign countries, an inter-service committee has been set up to assist MoHFW.

While the Armed Forces have committed every possible bit towards the national effort, there has been no compromise on the operational preparedness and national security. While the Government is taking every possible effort to overcome this pandemic, the people in uniform would continue to stand tall in support of this nation.

Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Navy (IN) have intensified their efforts to aid the civil administration in tackling the current COVID19 situation by ferrying oxygen containers and medical equipment.As on May 07, 2021, the C-17 aircraft of IAFhave conducted 400 sorties from within the country, including 351 to airlift 252 oxygen tankers of total capacity of 4,904 Metric Tonnes (MT). The cities covered were Jamnagar, Bhopal, Chandigarh, Panagarh, Indore, Ranchi, Agra, Jodhpur, Begumpet, Bhubaneswar, Pune, Surat, Raipur, Udaipur, Mumbai, Lucknow, Nagpur, Gwalior, Vijaywada, Baroda, Dimapur and Hindan.

The IAF aircraft also conducted 59 international sorties to airlift 72 cryogenic oxygen storage containers of 1,233 MT total capacity along with 1,252 empty oxygen cylinders. The containers and cylinders were procured from Singapore, Dubai, Bangkok, UK, Germany, Belgium and Australia. In addition, the C-17 and IL-76 aircraft have been tasked to airlift cryogenic oxygen containers, oxygen generators and ventilators from Israel and Singapore.

The Indian Navy deployed itsships INS Talwar, INS Kolkata, INS Airavat, INS Kochi, INS Tabar, INS Trikand, INS Jalashwa& INS Shardulto ferryoxygen containers/cylinders/concentrators and related equipment from friendly foreign countries. The details are as follows:-

 Ship Name  Medical Supplies Country/Port Status
 INS Talwar 27-MT oxygen containers – 02 BahrainArrived at New Mangalore on May 05, 2021
   INS Kolkata Oxygen cylinders – 200Oxygen concentrators – 43+Oxygen cylinders – 20027-MT oxygen containers – 02Oxygen concentrators– 04  Doha, Qatar + Kuwait  Expected arrival at Mundra on May 09, 2021
 INS Kochi 27-MT oxygen containers – 03Oxygen concentrators – 03Oxygen cylinders–800  Kuwait Expected arrivalat Mundra/Mumbaion May 10/11, 2021 
 INS Tabar 27-MT oxygen containers – 02Oxygen cylinders–600 Kuwait Expected arrivalat Mundra/Mumbai on May 10/11, 2021 
 INS Trikand 27-MT oxygen containers– 02 Doha, Qatar Expected arrivalat Mumbai on May 10, 2021 
   INS Airavat 20 T empty cryogenic oxygen cylinders – 08Empty oxygen cylinders – 3,150Filled oxygen cylinders – 500Oxygen concentrators – 07Rapid Antigen Test kits – 10,000PPE kits – 450     Singapore   Expected arrivalat Visakhapatnam on May 10, 2021

Loading of oxygen containers and other medical supplies has also been planned on INS Tarkash, INS Shardul and INS Jalashwafrom Doha, Kuwait and Muara, Brunei respectively in the coming days.

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