In the pre-coronavirus days, the only time Indian families could be found locked inside their homes together is when the country’s cricket team would be out kicking ass somewhere in the world. But now that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in India cross 700, the glaring inadequacies of our healthcare system are coming to light. In a country with a population of 1.3 billion, India only has one hospital bed for 1,826 people and one isolation bed per 84,000 people, with experts criticising the amount spent on advertising and building statues that could’ve been pumped into the healthcare system. Still, even in these tough times, Indians haven’t forgotten the one tactic they’re infamous for: jugaad, an inadequate translation of which would be ‘hacks’. And a prime example of this is having stadiums converted to quarantine centres, now that sports has been cancelled.
On March 22, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the Board of Control for Cricket declared that they would be willing to turn all cricket and sports stadiums across the country into quarantine facilities.
Just last week, West Bengal’s chief minister Mamata Banerjee announced that Howrah’s multi-purpose indoor Dumurjala Stadium would be converted into a 150-bed quarantine centre to combat the rising cases of COVID-19 patients. “The Dumurjola stadium is newly built but no sporting activity is taking place there yet,” she announced. “Let them set up more beds there and we will later return it like new.”
Similarly, the Gachibowli stadium in Telangana was identified as one of the quarantine centres for passengers coming into India from foreign countries after March 15, taking advantage of the separate entrances and exits of these stadiums to completely isolate patients.
In Assam, though there are still no confirmed cases, authorities have decided to convert the Sarusajai Stadium into a quarantine centre, with a capacity to keep approximately 1,000 people. “We are establishing large home quarantine camps here — if a positive case emerges in a family, this is where other members of the family will be brought. There will be facilities for food, attached bathroom, etc,” said Himanta Biswa Sarma, Assam’s health minister. The government also plans to rent houses around this area for 200 doctors. “If we have to get private doctors in, or ones from villages etc — this is where they will be accomodated,” he said.
The Assam Cricket Association is also offering to convert its Barsapara Stadium into a quarantine centre. Similarly, even the Hyderabad Cricket Association has offered the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium (RGIC) to accommodate patients who need isolation. "This (offering the stadium), we feel is the moral obligation on our part in this hour of crisis as there are 40 big rooms which can take care of some of the virus-affected patients," the HCA said in a press release. The Cricket Association of Pondicherry (CAP) had also offered a dormitory in its Tutipet campus as a quarantine centre in Puducherry. And amidst rising cases in the state, the Karnataka government is also scouting for stadiums to convert into quarantine centres.
This strategy of converting stadiums into isolation centres was first seen in China, and later adapted across the globe by countries including Australia and Brazil, while Spain had to turn some ice rinks into makeshift morgues.
Follow Shamani Joshi on Instagram.