A commuter uses his handkerchief to cover his face as he travels in a metro amid coronavirus fears, in New Delhi on March 17.(Reuters Photo)
A commuter uses his handkerchief to cover his face as he travels in a metro amid coronavirus fears, in New Delhi on March 17.(Reuters Photo)

Coronavirus outbreak: Home Ministry asks paramilitary forces to get into ‘battle mode’

The government has asked the non-emergency leaves of all paramilitary personnel be cancelled in order to minimise the risk of contracting coronavirus during travel.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Neeraj Chauhan
UPDATED ON MAR 18, 2020 03:01 PM IST

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has asked all paramilitary forces to get into “battle mode” and “plan ahead” to combat the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected almost 200,000 and killed nearly 8,000 people worldwide.

The guidelines come in the wake of an Indian Army trooper from Ladakh testing positive for the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) on Wednesday.

According to latest guidelines issued by the government, the director generals of Central Reserve Police Force, Border Security Force, Central Industrial Security Force, Indo Tibetan Border Police, Sashastra Seema Bal, National Security Guards and Assam Rifles have been asked to cancel all non-emergency leaves of paramilitary personnel to minimise the risk of contracting the virus during travel.

The directive, reviewed by HT, states that the next three weeks are “crucial” in checking the spread of the virus and lack of caution can impact the forces, which have combined strength of around 10 lakh personnel and are deployed in different regions of the country for law and order, and border security duties.

The guidelines also state that CAPF (Central Armed Police Forces) personnel should avoid international or domestic air, bus or train travel for at least a month except when it is essentially required. “Long distance travel is biggest cause for spread [of the virus],” it read.

Most of the 147 patients diagnosed in India have a history of travel to foreign countries including Italy and Iran – the two worst-affected nations after China, where the virus first emerged late last year.

It has also asked the forces to postpone all meetings and regular departmental reviews related to promotions, medical review, sports tournaments and recruitment.

“There is a need to get into battle mode and plan ahead not only in theory but through practical demonstration and drills,” the guidelines on occupational safety and health of the force personnel said.

Apart from reiterating the medically-certified best practices of avoiding hand-shakes and “’social distancing”, forces have also been asked to keep “extra emergency budget” for purchase of sanitation items and disinfectants.

The field offices, troops and their families have been asked to be aware of the importance of self-quarantine.

“For those in quarantine, enable contact with outside world through mobile, laptop, television and newspapers. Chargers and adaptors with sufficient charging points are a must. Sufficient items of clothing, medicines, food and groceries should be ensured,” the directive stated.

Personnel and their families have been asked not to go to public places that witness large gatherings like malls, gyms and swimming pools.

The guidelines specifically seek protection for health care staff as they are at “maximum risk”.

If and when health and medical service officials fall sick, the guidelines stated, the healthcare system is likely to become over-burdened.

“They (health workers) are prone to be anxious, worried, irritable and even angry and may even be attacked by the public when resources are limited and may suffer fatal injuries,” the order stated.

The guidelines state that the personnel should be cautioned against forwarding “unscientific and unsubstantiated messages” on social media platforms as well.

“Correct such misleading messages with right information from credible sources. It helps to check panic and fear,” it said.

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