The world has been fighting an invisible enemy for over a year. Just when things looked like they were getting slightly better, a bigger, more fatal wave of infections hit us all. In the midst of this, there are numerous selfless warriors who have selflessly been performing their duty, without any respite, for over a year. They are grappling with infrastructural shortcomings, overload of patients, lack of adequate medical facilities and sheer exhaustion. As the second wave took a toll on India, the nation’s first and last line of defence - her Armed Forces- stepped in to provide timely and invaluable assistance to her relentless health workers.
The Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force began their logistical and transport operations to protect others from the influence of the COVID-19 virus by supplying necessary COVID-aid throughout the country. Various operations were carried out, medical teams consisting of Medical and Nursing officers, Paramedics, battlefield nursing assistants were deployed to various hospitals when needed. Life-saving medical equipment like oxygen cylinders, drugs, COVID Care Centers and Quarantine Facilities were carried out across the country.
Oxygen generation plant received from Ireland
In a global relief aid against COVID-19, 11,058 oxygen concentrators, 13,496 Oxygen cylinders, 19 oxygen generation plants, 7365 ventilators/Bi-PAP, approx. 5.3 lakh Remdesivir vials were delivered/ dispatched to States/UTs through road and air from April 27 to May 15.
The Armed Forces have extended all possible assistance to the civil administration to control the COVID crisis. People have great faith and trust in the capabilities of the Armed Forces. Emergency Financial Powers were granted to the Armed Forces so that Formation Commanders could establish and operate quarantine facilities/hospitals and undertake procurement/repair of equipment/items/material/stores, besides provisioning of various services required to support the ongoing effort against the pandemic.
Acting on the multiple requests for the requirement of Covid care medical facilities, the Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS), Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs) and Cantonment Boards established COVID hospitals/facilities in Delhi, Lucknow, Bengaluru, Patna and more are coming up in other cities as per the request of the respective state governments.
“Nearly 750 beds in various Military Hospitals have been set aside for civilian use while the AFMS also dedicated 19 hospitals, over 4,000 beds and 585 ICU units across the country. Base Hospital in Delhi has been converted into a COVID hospital with capacity being increased from around 400 to 1,000 beds”, announced Defence Minister Shri Rajnath Singh.
In late April, the Navy’s official spokesperson revealed that a 76 member Indian Navy Medical Contingent from 5 Naval hospitals around the country reached Ahmedabad to bolster availability of trained manpower in the 900 bedded Dhanvantari Covid Hospital - comprising Medical & Nursing Officers, Paramedics & Battle Field Nursing Assistants.
On May 3 over 500 specialists, doctors, medical staff and caregivers from the Armed Forces flew in from across the country. They worked in close coordination with the hospital staff in different parts of the country, rehearsed COVID Management protocol and used their medical equipment to fill in the resource gap in the supply chain.
Operation Samudra Setu was launched in March 2020 with the aim of bringing stranded Indian nationals all over the world back home. As COVID assumed a 2.0 form, so did Operation Samudra Setu which was rechristened as Samudra Setu- II. Under this, seven Indian Naval ships viz. Kolkata, Kochi, Talwar, Tabar, Trikand, Jalashwa and Airavat have been deployed for shipment of liquid medical oxygen-filled cryogenic containers and associated medical equipment from various countries.
Operation Samudra Setu
INS Talwar, with 40 MT Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) embarked, is headed back home. INS Kolkata has proceeded to Doha, Qatar for embarking on medical supplies and will subsequently head to Kuwait for embarking on Liquid Oxygen tanks. Similarly, on the Eastern seaboard, INS Airavat too was diverted for the task, while INS Jalashwa, the LPD which played a key role during op Samudra Setu last year was pulled out of maintenance, readied and sailed out to augment the effort. The second batch of ships comprising INS Kochi, INS Trikand and INS Tabar mission deployed in the Arabian sea was diverted to join the national effort. INS Airavat is scheduled to enter Singapore for embarking on Liquid oxygen tanks and INS Jalashwa is standing by in the region to embark on medical stores at short notice.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the Military’s premier research organization, joined hands with a leading drug-manufacturer Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories to manufacture the 2-DG anti-COVID drug. Defence minister Rajnath Singh, who handed over the first batch of the 2-deoxy-D-glucose (2-DG) drug to health minister Harsh Vardhan, said the oxygen dependency for patients could be reduced by up to 40% with the therapy and the recovery time reduced by two-and-a-half days.
The Armed Forces have always stepped up whenever India has faced any contingency. Whether it was the Kargil War in the chilling heights of the Valley in 1999 or the calamitous rescue operations after the Kedarnath deluge in 2013 or the rescue of several stranded Indian citizens from Yemen in 2015, the Forces have shown that they will stand tall and impenetrable, doing everything in their might to protect their country and their people. We hope that, along with the assistance of India’s Defence, our healthcare professionals will be able to save lives and restore a semblance of normalcy to the subcontinent.