India has begun converting 20,000 railway carriages into isolation wards to deal with an expected surge in coronavirus cases.
Each of the carriages will be converted into medical facilities containing 16 beds each, meaning a total of 320,000 people can be cared for. The state-run Indian Railways said that work on modifying an initial 5,000 carriages has already begun.
India is one week into a massive nationwide lockdown with 1.3 billion people told to stay home as the country attempts to stifle the spread of the coronavirus. But there has been a spike in new cases this week, with the country confirming 1,590 infections and 45 deaths, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University.
Critics say India is simply not conducting enough tests and the threat of community transmission is growing, especially as millions of migrant workers are making long and often deadly journeys back to their home towns and villages.
Also of concern is the patchwork Indian healthcare system, which lacks enough trained staff and medical equipment such as ventilators to handle a large outbreak of coronavirus. India has just eight doctors per 10,000 people, compared to 26 in the U.S., 41 in Italy, and 71 in South Korea.
As well as converting railway carriages, India has begun converting sports stadiums into temporary hospitals, mirroring efforts by governments around the world as existing hospitals are overwhelmed with patients.
In China, temporary hospitals were built in record time, London has converted a conference center into a temporary field hospital to treat 4,000 patients, and in Spain, an ice rink has been turned into a mortuary.
Following India’s lead, Pakistan Railways has also converted all its business class and air-conditioned sleeper coaches into isolation wards to accommodate around 2,000 beds for coronavirus patients.
Cover: An Indian railway employee works to convert a train coach into an isolation ward for the fight against the new coronavirus in Gauhati, India, Sunday, March 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)