The Indian Railways has converted 5,231 non air-conditioned coaches into isolation coaches and offered these to be used as Covid Care Centres (CCCs) in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW).
According to the ministry’s note issued on Friday, these facilities are to be used when state facilities are overwhelmed. This is part of the integrated Covid plan developed by MoHFW and Niti Aayog. More than 5,000 coaches are ready for any such contingency.
Earlier, the railway authorities had discussed the feasibility of having air-conditioned coaches with the Niti Aayog and the health ministry before finally deciding to offer non air-conditioned coaches for the Covid patients.
A consensus has emerged against having air-conditioned coaches as it is likely to cause potential transmission risk of the Covid-19 virus through AC ducting.
A higher ambient temperature is expected to assist in fighting the virus and cross circulation of air through open windows will benefit the coronavirus patients. A decision has been taken to keep the coaches well-ventilated with adequate scope for natural lighting.
The isolation coaches, serving as “Covid Care Centers”, shall be offered only for cases that have been clinically assigned as mild, very mild, and Covid suspect cases.
Each isolation coach will be mapped to one or more dedicated Covid health centres where the patients could be shifted to in case their condition starts to deteriorate.
As advised by the health ministry, one emergency resuscitation facility shall also be set up on the adjacent platform where the coaches would be parked.
The ministry’s note says that the non-AC coaches would be a little warm in mid-June if the windows are kept closed, and the ambient temperature may also be around 43 degrees Celsius.
But, once mosquito nets are installed and the windows are kept open, the cross circulation of air is expected to improve the temperature.
In order to beat the heat build-up inside the coaches due to summer temperatures, a multi-pronged strategy is being adopted which will provide comfort to the patients and staff.
These would include placing cover sheets over isolation coaches stationed at platforms to insulate it from outside heat. Bubble-wrap films are also being put on the coaches that are expected to reduce temperatures inside coaches by 1 degree Celsius.
The Northern Railway has already tried heat reflective paint on the roof which reduced temperature inside the coaches up to 2.2 degrees Celsius.