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How India Is Bolstering Its Quarantine Facilities To Tackle Coronavirus Outbreak

Two floors in the new super-speciality block of Safdarjung Hospital have been set aside for isolating persons suspected to have been infected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The Delhi patient, who tested positive for the viral infection on Monday, has been kept in a separate cubicle within this isolation ward.

Another floor of the same building has been kept on stand-by. “These are not like general wards, these are all cubicles that can accommodate one or two patients. Two floors in the new building have been reserved for isolation of patients, either (those who have tested) positive or suspected to have the viral infection. We do not know what the situation will be like and we need to be prepared. One floor has been opened, the other will be opened if necessary,” a doctor at the hospital said on condition of anonymity.

The wards can accommodate over 100 people, if need be.

Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, the other nodal centre for COVID-19, also has a 32-bed isolation facility. Besides the two nodal centres, the Delhi government has asked 25 other hospitals – 19 government-run and six private — that usually treat H1N1 (swine flu) patients to set up isolation wards, adding 230 beds. Currently, 30 people are in hospital in isolation in Delhi – 26 in Safdarjung Hospital and four at RML Hospital. Apart from the hospitals, two isolation facilities created by the army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police in Manesar and Chhawla can accommodate around 800 persons.

Even as Delhi gears up to handle coronavirus cases by activating its H1N1 network, other states have been asked to identify possible isolation facilities. The armed forces, paramilitary forces, medical colleges and even public sector undertakings (PSUs) have been asked to help in scaling up the isolation facilities across the country.

The health ministry has also asked state governments to hold meetings with hospital associations to identify such isolation facilities in the private sector as well. The health ministry is also coordinating with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) to develop standard operating procedures for private facilities.

“India has actually handled the situation very well. Our surveillance has been very strong since the cases started being reported in China. Yes, Kerala and even Delhi has better healthcare facilities than many other states but our disaster preparedness is very strong even at the district level. Isolation facilities can be created easily at a short notice,” said Dr Jugal Kishore, head of the department of community medicine at Safdarjung Hospital. “Plus, there would be support from private facilities as well, like when there was a swine flu outbreak in India. Healthcare systems have learnt a lot from swine flu outbreak and Nipah. I think we are prepared.”

After a meeting of all senior officials of the health department on Tuesday, Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain also said there was sufficient stock of masks and personal protection equipment, or PPE, in the city-state.

“A total of 230 beds are being arranged in the 25 hospitals to treat people in case of an outbreak. We have around 3.5-lakh N95 masks and over 8,000 PPE kits for the hospital staff treating coronavirus patients,” he said.

Six family members of the Delhi patient,two of whom travelled with him to Italy and have shown symptoms, are also being brought to the hospital. An initial test of these six people (who are in Agra) returned positive. To confirm that they have been infected by COVID-19 ,their samples will be sent from Safdarjung Hospital to National Institute of Virology, Pune.

“All the six persons are from the same family and had travelled together. They will reach Safdarjung on Tuesday night. A sample to confirm the infection will be sent to NIV, Pune,” said a senior official at the hospital on condition of anonymity.

The 45-year-old man from Mayur Vihar Phase II was initially kept under isolation at Dr Ram Manohar Lohia hospital and was transferred to Safdarjung on Sunday night. The staff members at RML hospital who came in contact with the Delhi patient have been asked to remain under home quarantine for 14 days.

At Safdarjung Hospital, no one except a doctor and a few nurses are allowed to enter the isolation ward, that too only after putting on personal protection equipment such as a full-body suit, masks, gloves, and eyewear.

“Only a senior doctor from the pulmonology department is taking care of the COVID-19 positive patient. The nurses who usually handle the isolation ward for H1N1 infections have been posted to the ward. They are experts in handling patients with respiratory infections in isolation, they do not need any special training for this infection,” said a staff member at the hospital.

Hospital staff are continually trained in infection control, said another staff member.-Hindustan Times