Coronavirus: Delhi to get 500 converted rail coaches for patients

Hospitals in Indian capital unable to cope with rapidly rising case numbers

This photo taken on June 11, 2020 shows security guards at the entrance of the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) hospital in New Delhi. Ashwani Jain succumbed to the coronavirus in an ambulance as his family pleaded with several hospitals to take him in, the latest victim of the pandemic sweeping through Delhi and exposing a deadly shortage of hospital beds. - TO GO WITH health-virus-India-hospital,FOCUS by Abhaya SRIVASTAVA
 / AFP / Sajjad HUSSAIN / TO GO WITH health-virus-India-hospital,FOCUS by Abhaya SRIVASTAVA
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India on Sunday sent 500 railway coaches converted into hospital wards to help the capital region cope with a flood of coronavirus cases.

The coaches will increase Delhi's capacity by 8,000 beds, federal home minister Amit Shah said on Twitter after a meeting with the capital's region chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal.

With more than 22,000 active cases, Delhi is the third-worst affected region after the states of Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. Mr Kejriwal has said the number of cases in the city is expected to cross half a million by the end of July.


India's coronavirus wards on rails


Indian media have reported numerous cases of patients being turned away from overburdened Delhi hospitals and dying without treatment. There has also been an outcry over the high cost of beds and coronavirus treatment at private hospitals.

Ashwani Jain, a 45-year-old businessman, succumbed to the coronavirus in an ambulance as his family pleaded with several hospitals to take him in.

"It won't matter to them but I have lost my father, he was the world to me," his 20-year-old daughter Kashish told Agence France-Presse.

His brother Abhishek said hospitals refused to admit him even though an app set up by the city government indicated that beds reserved for Covid-19 patients were available.

India began converting railway coaches into hospital wards in March as it halted train services and imposed a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

"These wards will be equipped with necessary facilities for patients, doctors and nurses," Railways Minister Piyush Goyal told The National at the time.

Mr Goyal said his ministry planned to convert at least 5,000 coaches for use in case of a shortage of hospital space in the country.

Mr Shah, the home minister, said on Sunday a committee was looking into providing 60 per cent of private hospital beds in Delhi at low cost for coronavirus patients, and fixing the cost of testing and treatment. A report would be submitted on Monday, he said.

He said the government would also double testing in the city, especially in containment zones, conduct a door-to-door health survey of residents and provide sufficient supplies of oxygen cylinders and ventilators.

Delhi, with about 20 million people, accounts for more than 1,000 of the 9,195 coronavirus deaths among India's 1.3 billion population.

India is currently the fourth-worst affected country in the world with more than 320,000 cases after another record daily increase of nearly 12,000 confirmed infections reported by the health ministry on Sunday.


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