COVID-19 | Opinion

Why We Need Each Other Now?

It is clear that none of us is safe until everyone else is safe. The developing world is not woefully ill-equipped to cope with COVID-19 as one of the journalists wrote in The Economist, but it has its own mechanism to deal with calamities. Indian Railways and its long experience of operating mobile hospitals on rails is just one example.
02 Apr 2020 16:39
Why We Need Each Other Now?
An operation theatre inside the Lifeline Express of Indian Railways.



  • Jai Kumar Sharma is Fiji Sun’s consultant editor and trainer. He is a former senior executive on the Times of India, the world’s biggest English-language newspaper. He witnessed the mass migration of labourers from the national capital, Delhi, and revealed the real reasons behind it, which are contrary to reports in the international media

In developing countries — where billions of people live in proximity to calamity even in the best of times — the dangers are amplified.  We all need each other’s help right now. It is clearer than ever that none of us will be safe until all of us are safe.

Global Health Security Index (GHS) published a report on Global Pandemic Preparedness and revealed that no country was truly prepared to manage a pandemic—this report was published before the eruption of coronavirus in Wuhan, China.

GHS Index ranked countries on a scale of 1-100 and explains that 73 per cent of the world’s population live in the countries that scored below 50 including India, China, Nigeria, Mexico and Pakistan. Surprisingly, United States, the UK, France, Canada, Spain and Germany are among the top 10 on the epidemic preparedness index — but were the worst hit by COVID-19.

Looking at the crisis in developed countries, global media in fact, underestimated preparedness, fighting spirit, genetic strength and resilience of the people in developing countries.

In straight words, we do not need super-speciality hospitals or swanky operation theatres at the moment—all of these are of limited use. The need of the hour is isolation centres, ventilators and medical staff who can isolate and attend infected people until the immune system of the patient develops antibodies naturally.

Virus combat ideas

Several developing countries are coming up with far more viable ideas for them to combat COVID-19.

India is gearing up for its worst-case scenario where five million people are infected and need isolation wards.

This South Asian country is setting up an example to fight the catastrophe. India has the world’s fourth-largest railway network and its rolling stock consists of 80,000 passenger coaches. Indian Railways also have hospitals and doctors in every zone across the length and width of the country.

According to Indian Railway officials, the train bogies will be converted into full-fledged isolation wards with medical and food facilities.

The Railway Board has said that initially 5000 coaches were being converted and if required they would convert 20,000 more coaches into isolation wards. Five railway zones have already prepared a prototype.

Railway coaches in India are being converted into isolation units.

Railway coaches in India are being converted into isolation units.

All Indian Railway coaches are already equipped with bio-toilets, water and power facilities. One toilet in every coach is being converted as a washroom for bathing.

The first cabin near the bathing room will be provided with two hospitals/plastic curtains transversely in the aisle so that the entry and exit to the entire cabin can be screened off.

One cabin will be used as a store/paramedics area. Two oxygen cylinders will also be provided with every compartment and charging points for laptops and mobiles will be ensured for patients. Indian Railways has a long experience of operating mobile hospitals on rails. In 1991, the world’s first hospital on a train chugged out of Mumbai on its maiden journey. Twenty-nine years later, the Lifeline Express continues to take a multitude of medical services, from major surgeries to dedicated cancer treatment, to the people.

With 16 isolation beds in every coach, Indian Railways alone will provide 320,000 hospital beds within a month’s time.

Response to the virus

The developing world is not woefully ill-equipped to cope with COVID-19 as one of the journalists wrote in The Economist, but it has its own mechanism to deal with calamities. Football stadiums, rugby stadiums, hotels and government buildings are being converted into isolation centres there.

With a stronger immune system, people in countries like Fiji have better chances of victory over the coronavirus if they confine themselves within squares and circles, and do not extend the diametre of the circles to 30 kilometres [by walking from Lautoka to Ba].

The success of lockdowns will not only break the chain of virus spread, but will also buy valuable time to develop a vaccine against the virus.

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