Monitoring passengers arriving from ‘hot spots’ is needed for more effective control of the pandemic, say officials
While there is a lockdown in force for 20 hours day for the next 10 days with bus and metro rail services curtailed, the administration seems to have missed taking into account the hundreds of long-distance train passengers arriving in the capital daily.
Senior South Central Railway (SCR) officials said at least 50,000 passengers arrive in various special trains in the three stations of Secunderabad, Hyderabad and Kacheguda. Passengers starting the journey are “randomly” checked for temperature when they get into the trains, but there are no checks whatsoever, once they alight at the terminal station.
“Last year, we had TS health department setting up a desk, taking down details of each and every passenger. Healthcare workers were calling up for next few days to enquire about their health. Though it was wound up in mid-June when other relaxations came in, it did serve a purpose to keep an eye on passengers arriving from other places with a quarantine stamp on their arms,” they pointed out, pleading anonymity.
This year, despite rising cases and the Delhi government announcing mandatory quarantine — 14 days institutional quarantine or seven days home quarantine for those with a RT-PCR negative report and double dose vaccination and few other States followed suit, there is no such directive from the government. “Many States are under lockdown, however, we have not received any instructions to curtail special trains. We are continuing our safety precautions of not providing bed linen, on-board meals, enforcing face masks, etc.” they explained.
Senior officials accepted that monitoring and surveillance of passenger arrivals from “hot spots” where positive cases are high is the need of the hour, for a more effective control of the pandemic along with the lockdown. It is being done at the airports where airlines have been insisting on negative RT-PCR tests.
SCR is, meanwhile, ready to deploy 80-100 COVID isolation coaches at short notice if requested by the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh governments. “We can deploy them at short notice, once we have a pact on standard operating procedures with the governments as they have to provide manpower and ensure the facility is mapped to the nearest hospital to take care of any patient during emergency,” said chief public relations officer Ch. Rakesh.
Railways will provide power and water supply along with security and coach maintenance. Middle berths have been removed for such coaches with one bay each earmarked for medical staff and another for equipment, the rest of the six bays are for patients with provision for a bath and toilet. About 16 patients can be accommodated in each coach.
Last year 20 of 480 coaches made ready here (5,000 coaches nationwide) were stationed at Kacheguda and Adilabad following a government request, but not used. About 298 coaches with a bed capacity of 4,700 beds are now deployed at 17 stations in seven States. More than 4,400 isolation coaches with around 70,000 beds are available across the country, he said.
For railway personnel, extra beds and more staff are being added to health centres of Vijayawada, Kazipet and Tirupati while a marriage hall has been converted into a 70-bed COVID care centre at Guntakal with 60% reserved for outside patients. The bed strength of Central Hospital at Lallaguda is being increased to 625 from 210 beds to meet the rush, added the CPRO.
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