Prime Minister Narendra Modi was briefed by Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat about the efforts and operations by the Armed Forces in assisting the states and civil administration in fighting the surging second wave of the Covid-19 cases across the country.
While the Air Force has been transporting medical equipment, including oxygen tankers, both domestically and internationally, the Navy was sent to Lakshadweep as a part of Oxygen Express. The Armed Forces Medical Services has deputed its staff at the various exclusive Covid-19 facilities being set up by DRDO in Delhi, Varanasi and Lucknow among other cities.
Rawat informed the Prime Minister that “all medical personnel from armed forces who have retired or taken pre-mature retirement in the last 2 years are being recalled to work in Covid facilities within proximity of their present place of residence” and other medical officers, “who retired earlier have also been requested to make their services available for consultation through medical emergency helplines”.
He also told Modi that all medical officers on staff appointments at the command, corps, division headquarters and the headquarters of the Navy and the Air Force will be employed at hospitals.
The Defence Ministry mentioned in a statement that Rawat apprised Modi about nursing personnel being employed in “large numbers to complement the doctors at the hospitals”.
As the various parts of the country are facing a dearth of medical oxygen, Rawat also told Modi that “oxygen cylinders available with armed forces in various establishments will be released for hospitals”. The forces, Rawat said, are “creating medical facilities in large numbers and where possible military medical infrastructure will be made available to civilians”.
Modi also reviewed operations being undertaken by the Air Force to transport oxygen and other essentials in India and abroad. On Monday, Air Force’s C17 transport aircraft landed in Dubai to airlift seven empty cryogenic oxygen containers. It will reach Panagarh by 5:30 in the evening. The Air Force had brought four cryogenic oxygen tankers from Singapore to Panagarh on Saturday.
Apart from these, the Air Force’s transport fleet has been conducting regular sorties throughout the country carrying essential medical equipment to different parts.
During his meeting with the CDS on Monday, Modi also discussed “that Kendriya and Rajya Sainik Welfare Boards and Officers posted in various headquarters in veterans’ cells may be instructed to coordinate the services of veterans to extend the reach to maximum extent possible including in remote areas”.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had held two review meetings with the armed forces and other wings of the ministry, asking them to work on a war-footing and extend all possible assistance to the civil administration.
The armed forces, along with the Defence PSUs, Ordnance Factory Board, DRDO and other arms of the Defence Ministry have been increasing their contributions in the combat against the pandemic.
DRDO has reopened its Covid-19 facility in Delhi last week, with 500 beds, and is setting up a 500-bed Covid hospital in Patna, a 450-bed hospital in Lucknow, a 750-bed hospital in Varanasi and a 900-bed hospital in Ahmedabad, all of which are either already functional or will be in the coming days.
On Friday, the ministry had mentioned that AFMS will import 23 oxygen generation plants and containers from Germany, which will be deployed in AFMS hospitals. These plants have a capacity to produce 40 litres of oxygen per minute and 2,400 litres an hour. At that rate, they “can cater to 20-25 patients round the clock” and are “easily portable”, the ministry had said.