Curbing Covid-19 risks army’s key focus area
The army, which is an important institutional pillar in the country’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic, has taken a raft of preventive measures to stop the spread of the infection within its ranks.Updated: Mar 27, 2020 04:17 IST
From the possibility of terrorists “intentionally spreading” the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in Kashmir to likely military logistics challenges, from restrictions on training to rotation of units aimed to prevent soldiers from getting infected, the army is focusing on mitigating risks emerging from Covid-19 that could affect its operations, three army officers said on Thursday on condition of anonymity.
“We are going through extraordinary times and the challenges we face as a fighting force are new and unexpected. We are keeping a close watch on every aspect related to the Covid-19 pandemic and how it could impact us. Even the remote possibility of terrorists somehow attempting to spread the disease, or creating a scare among people, has not escaped our attention,” said the first officer cited above. He added that raising awareness among troops was critical.
The army, which is an important institutional pillar in the country’s fight against the pandemic, has taken a raft of preventive measures to stop the spread of the infection within its ranks. These include cancellation of all non-essential training, conferences and travel; a freeze on postings and foreign assignments; avoiding any assembly that involves more than 50 personnel; postponing of all courses for officers; and encouraging personnel to work from home wherever possible.
“Training has taken a hit. The balance between the peace-time and field profile of units will be affected as no rotation can happen until the situation is under control. No one can say when normalcy will return,” said the second officer cited above. Army units move every two years.
The army has asked its units across the country to strictly adhere to protocols for containing the spread of Covid-19, with guidelines being issued almost every second day reiterating measures to fight the spread of infection.
“We have to be very vigilant to ensure operations are not affected. Even if one soldiers tests positive, the entire unit will have to be quarantined. With the northern and western borders, and our counter-terrorism role, we have two and a half fronts. We are now facing three fronts with the Covid-19 outbreak,” the third officer said.
The army has instituted mechanisms to trace contact history of soldiers and asked them to maintain a daily contact log. Talking about the army’s role in assisting the civil administration to tackle the coronavirus, the same officer added it would be quite challenging as no one can predict how many people will get infected and plans are being made on the basis of different sets of numbers.
Experts said the army was prepared to handle all aspects of the Covid-19 outbreak and its operations were unlikely to get affected.
“The army has taken aggressive measures to ensure Covid-19 does not affect it. Operations in field areas are going on. The force is committed to the well-being and safety of citizens as well as its own personnel,” said Lieutenant General SL Narasimhan (retd), a member of the National Security Advisory Board.
The army has set up medical facilities at Manesar, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur to accommodate 1,600 people. Also, the force is on standby to activate more quarantine facilities at Jhansi, Binaguri and Gaya with a total capacity of 1,600 people.