ISLAMABAD: While the countrywide passenger train service remains suspended for an indefinite period, Pakistan Railways has converted all its business class and air-conditioned sleeper coaches into mobile isolation wards to accommodate around 2,000 beds for patients suffering from novel coronavirus.
These mobile isolation wards are now ready and can be sent to any part of the country connected with railway tracks upon request by authorities in case the existing health facilities are unable to cope with the number of coronavirus patients, Railways Minister Shaikh Rashid Ahmad told reporters at the Rawalpindi railway station on Monday.
In all, 220 coaches have been converted into mobile isolation wards. Each coach has nine compartments, which means in one compartment nine wards are available.
In addition, 100 beds each in all the seven divisions of Pakistan Railways — Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Lahore, Karachi, Quetta, Sukkur and Multan — are now available, each equipped with one ventilator. Services at all the seven hospitals are managed by Pakistan Railways and numerous dispensaries are also available for patients affected by coronavirus, the railways minister said.
Facility has a capacity of 2,000 beds
Pakistan Railways had announced suspension of all passenger trains countrywide in order to check the spread of coronavirus. However, freight train service continues without disruption as the food supply is of utmost importance.
Chances are remote that train service will remain suspended for the whole of April. As the cases of coronavirus are on the rise in the country, Pakistan Railways would not operate passenger train service till normalisation of the situation, Shaikh Rashid said.
However, he said the situation in Pakistan was not worse as in Italy, Spain or the United States.
Next two weeks in Pakistan were crucial for coronavirus and if the virus spread further, it would be brought under control, he said.
Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2020