It’s important that soldiers stay fit: Army chief amid Covid-19 outbreak

Published on Mar 27, 2020 07:38 PM IST
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By, New Delhi

In an address to soldiers on the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak, army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane on Friday said it was important for them to stay fit and remain away from coronavirus if they have to help the countrymen in these serious times.

Naravane asked them to strictly adhere to a string of preventive measures circulated by the army to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“As the army chief, force protection is a priority for me. All of us have to stay away from coronavirus. Only then can we discharge our duties,” he said.

The army chief said soldiers deployed along the border had to stay close to each other due to “operational and tactical” reasons and it was all the more important for them to ensure they were fit and disease free.

On Thursday, he said the army was undertaking its operational tasks like before and the Covid-19 outbreak had not hit its preparedness. He said that Covid-19 was in preparatory stage of impact in India and the country was making concerted efforts to prevent the disease from establishing a firm base

“I want to assure all the soldiers posted on the border that their families are being taken care of. I also want to assure all the families that their husbands are safe while performing their operational duties,” he said in his address.

He said Veer Naaris (army widows) and the veterans should take care of themselves and stay safe. “In case of any need, contact the commander of the nearest army cantonment without hesitation… We have established Command-wise helpline numbers on which calls can be made any time,” he said.

BOOSTING MEDICAL READINESS

The army has asked all field hospitals to be ready to set up a 45-bed isolation facility and create a 10-bed ICU facility at six hours’ notice. The armed forces, which are an important institutional pillar in the country’s fight against the pandemic, are working on a war footing to deal with Covid-19 cases, including setting up testing facilities in more hospitals.

Lieutenant General Anup Banerji, who heads the Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS), said on Friday that isolation wards had been set up at peripheral hospitals in forward areas to stay prepared for the Covid-19 threat.

“Segregation facilities have been set up to observe troops already back from leave from various states,” he said.

The armed forces are operating six quarantine facilities across the country at Hindan, Manesar, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Ghatkopar and Chennai. “We are housing 1,059 civilian evacuees from countries like Italy, Iran and Malaysia in these centres. Of these, three have tested positive so far,” he said.

Banerji said the availability of personal Protective equipment (PPE) was a challenge both nationally and globally. “Their rational usage is very crucial and we have issued necessary advisory to that effect to the services. We, as AFMS, are presently geared up with adequate PPEs for use in our hospitals,” he said, adding that additional PPE procurement was planned to meet the requirements in the coming weeks and months.

He said currently five hospitals run by the armed forces were equipped to carry out Covid-19 tests and six more will be added to the list soon. The army has earmarked 28 service hospitals for managing Covid-29 cases, he said. “This includes armed forces patients as well as civilian patients transferred from state health authorities, in case their capacity is overwhelmed,” he said.

He said the soldier who had tested positive in Leh --- the army’s first and only coronavirus case so far --- has made an “uneventful recovery”.

On medical assistance being given to neighbouring countries, he said, “Apart from the Maldives, we are ready to dispatch a rapid response team to Nepal for assisting them with the present Covid-19 situation there. Other assistance as sought from ministries of external affairs and defence for other countries will be provided as and when required.”

The defence ministry has asked 62 cantonment boards, spread across 19 states and union territories, to identify beds in hospitals, health centres and guest houses, to meet any eventuality, a ministry spokesperson said.

“Presidents and chief executive officers of the cantonment boards are in constant touch with civilian authorities in their respective areas and providing required assistance whenever needed,” a ministry release said.

NAVY FLIES 60,000 MASKS TO GOA

The India Navy on Friday flew 60,000 masks in an Ilyushin-38 aircraft from Delhi to Goa where health workers need them. A shipment of 60,000 face masks ordered by Indian Medical Association, Goa, was stuck in Delhi as trucks could not move in the current lockdown, a navy spokesperson said.

“A request for facilitating transportation of the masks to Goa was made by the Indian Medical Association to the Indian Navy at Goa. An IL-38 long range maritime reconnaissance aircraft flew from Goa to Palam Airport on Friday and returned to Goa with the masks,” he added.

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