The latest COVID-19 care coaches developed by Indian Railways have all the facilities and proper types of equipment available to keep the coronavirus affected patients comfortable and safe, but the only thing they need to survive is the extreme heat of the summer season entrapped between the 'metal boxes'. The coaches have all the required equipments like mosquito nets, handheld showers, bio-washrooms, power sockets, oxygen cylinders and other facilities.
The Railways is supporting the efforts of the government and developing infrastructure to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Around 5,321 non-AC sleeper class ICF coaches, which are a bit older in terms of modernization are transformed and renovated by the Railways into effective COVID-19 Care level 1 centres. Patients having moderate symptoms or those who the railway authorities suspect as positive patients will be kept here.
According to the officials, the patients suspected to have been affected by the virus or have been tested positive will be assigned to specific coaches. They also claimed that around 960 coaches have been already developed in five cities in the country with 503 coaches in Delhi and 372 coaches in Uttar Pradesh.
The officials said, the coaches are ready for use and patients can move in, but no one has applied for the coaches yet. The medical staff is expected to be provided with two or more AC coaches so that they can rest and relax.
But the main concern for the railway officials is, how to make the patients comfortable and relaxed amid the hot weather since it is the month of June and most parts of the country face extreme heat waves. However, the officials are hoping that the monsoon might bring some comfort from the uncomfortable weather, but there are some speculations that the coaches will be of no use if the patients don't feel comfortable inside the coaches.
The Health Ministry mentioned, that the coaches might be difficult to survive in as the temperature can reach upto 43 degrees inside them, though the decision of non-air-conditioned coaches was made mandatory by the ministry itself.
Trials and experiments are being conducted by the railways so that the temperature inside the coaches is bearable. They have built bamboo shades on windows and wrapping bubbles on the roof along with a coating that is resistant to heat and movable air coolers. Cover-sheets have also been used to keep the coaches cool.
According to an official, these activities will bring down the temperature by 1 degree Celsius in the interiors. A similar method has been used by the Northern Railways, which has proven effective.
Another coating is expected to be developed in the coaches with the help of researchers from IIT Bombay.
The Railways claimed, that as part of an experiment, they have placed air coolers in the interiors of the coaches, which has brought the temperature down upto 3 degrees Celsius. However, despite developing various measures, the officials are eagerly waiting for the monsoon to arrive.
The Railways said, that they have adopted all the proper guidelines to ensure safety among the COVID-19 patients by removing the middle berths. Each sleeper coach has eight bays or 'cabins', where each of them has a capacity of 16 beds. There will be three toilets with three Indian and one western along with showers, mug, bucket and a stool. The bio-toilets have been equipped with Chlorine tablets and bio enzymes inside tanks to manage human waste.
The Environment Ministry has also approved the Railway's request for single time disposal of biodegradable items when a patient stays.
For supporting IV fluid bottles, extra holders of bottles, space has been made and clamps have been arranged to hang them. They have also provided with oxygen cylinders.
Three multi-colour dustbins with a colour code have been provided for disposal of medical waste, along with mosquito nets on windows.
18 mobiles plug points along with powerful LED lights and fans with less noise have been installed.
The railways is expected to supply linen and food if requested by the states along with safety and wifi connection.
The Health Ministry issued some norms, where it said that the coaches are required to be sanitized daily with 1 per cent of hypochlorite and detergents. Cleaning of washrooms, coach floors, underneath beds and other items will be done simultaneously.