Mumbai: Railway authorities in Mumbai have trained their staff to identify commuters with symptoms of the coronavirus and help them reach the hospital where such patients are being treated, an official said on Thursday.
Local trains of the Central railway (CR) and Western Railway (WR) ferry around 80 lakh commuters every day, which account for nearly half of the total number of passengers who travel by trains in the country daily.
On average over 5,000 people travel by a local train in Mumbai during peak hour.
"Station masters have been trained to spot symptoms of the coronavirus. They have been instructed to approach the passengers showing coronavirus-like symptoms and assist them reach the nearest hospital," said Shivaji Sutar, chief public relations officer of the CR.
The staff at Emergency Medical Rooms at railway stations have been sensitized about the virus, he added.
If the staff spot a suspected coronavirus patient at a station, they have been asked to inform the district collector.
"Passengers too can approach the station master or call the railway helpline to report such suspected patients," Sutar added.
Special helplines have been set up for this purpose, he stated.
The authorities are also trying to create awareness among commuters through posters about DOs & DON'Ts and audio and video messages.
The WR has set up a dedicated ward of 30 beds for suspected coronavirus cases at Jagjivan Ram Hospital at Mumbai Central, whereas the CR has set up isolation wards at its hospitals in Byculla and Kalyan.
"Isolation wards and high-contact surfaces are being sanitized regularly with disinfectants," said a WR release.
Health inspectors are conducting awareness drives in Railway colonies, offices and stations to prevent panic. Awareness campaigns about how to ensure hygiene for prevention of the virus infection are being carried out, said the release.
But a commuter rights activist felt the steps were inadequate.
"Considering the travel conditions in suburban locals during peak hours, the disease could spread widely," said Subhash Gupta, member of the National Railway Users Consultative Committee.
Passengers arriving in Mumbai by long-distance trains should be screened, he said.
But according to railway officials, screening of passengers at railway stations is practically impossible, looking at sheer numbers.