India's hospitals conduct Covid drills amid rise in cases

Health authorities want to avoid a repeat of the situation which developed during the second wave of the pandemic last year

A health worker in a swab collection booth checks Covid-19 test facilities at a hospital in Mumbai.  AFP
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Hundreds of hospitals across India participated in mock drills to check their preparedness for dealing with pandemic cases amid concern about a possible wave following a surge in Covid-19 cases in China.

Drills took place in both government-run and private hospitals, including at Safdarjung Hospital, one of the largest in New Delhi.

“Today mock drills are being conducted across Covid hospitals in the country to make sure people get proper treatment,” Federal Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said, while overseeing a drill at the 2,600-bed Safdarjung Hospital.

New Delhi’s deputy chief minister and health minister Manish Sisodia visited Lok Nayak Jai Prakash hospital.

The hospital was transformed into the biggest Covid-19 care centre in the capital and treated more than 10,000 coronavirus patients during the peak of the pandemic in 2021.

The New Delhi government, led by Mr Sisodia’s Aam Aadmi Party, recently approved 1.4 billion rupees ($19 million) for hospitals to procure general medicines as part of emergency preparations.

Mr Sisodia said the hospital has reserved 450 beds out of a total of 2,000 for Covid-19 patients and, if needed, the number of beds would be increased.

The mock drills are a significant step in ensuring that hospitals can cope if an emergency situation arises, unlike during the second wave last year.

Hospitals across the country ran out of space and lacked adequate staff and equipment.

A health worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) carries a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outside the casualty ward at Guru Teg Bahadur hospital, in New Delhi, India, April 24, 2021. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Bodies piled up outside hospitals and desperate families tried to get hold of oxygen cylinders as hospitals suffered a shortage of oxygen supplies.

Worrying scenes are emerging from China, which is grappling with a wave triggered by the BF.7 variant — a sub-variant of the Omicron variant — and India wants to avoid a similar situation.

The mock drills involve assessing preparedness, increasing the number of isolation and oxygen-supported beds, ventilator-supported beds, training staff for Covid-19 management, and ensuring uninterrupted oxygen supplies in case of emergency.

India has also started random Covid-19 tests at various airports, as well as making vaccination mandatory for bars, restaurants and pubs ahead of New Year celebrations.

The country has registered an 11 per cent rise in cases, with more than 150 cases reported in the last 24 hours, according to Health Ministry data. However, the BF.7 variant accounted for just 0.5 per cent or those.

Active known cases stand at more than 3,400.

Updated: December 27, 2022, 12:13 PM