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With the cases of Coronavirus rising in the country, the union govt had decided to convert Railway coaches into Covid-19 treatment facilities. The govt has announced that 500 coaches will be given to Delhi, which will provide 8000 beds. Before this, almost 5000 coaches are already functioning has isolation centres. It is learnt that coaches will be given to other states also based on the requirement for conversion into COVID-19 hospitals.
It has been decided that only non-AC coaches will be used for conversion to COVID-19 hospitals. According to sources in the Railway ministry, the matter of AC vs non-AC coaches was discussed with the Union Health Ministry and also with NITI Aayog. After the meetings, it was concluded that non-AC coaches are more suitable according to the Coronavirus treatment protocols issued by the health ministry.
According to guidelines, normal AC systems used in hospitals are not suitable for contagious diseases like Coronavirus, as such systems recirculate the air in the room after cooling it, the systems can increase the concentration of the virus in the room. Moreover, these systems also have the risk of circulating the virus outside the ward. Therefore, the guidelines say that the AC systems must be converted into non-circulatory system to avoid increasing the concentration of the virus in the air.
As an additional protection, UVGI (Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation) units can be installed in the Air Conditioning systems, which kill pathogens in the air circulating in the system using ultraviolet light. The recently opened Covid-19 super speciality hospital in Guwahati uses such a system imported from Canada.
Therefore, as there are several issues and requirements for AC systems for Coronavirus treatment facilities, it was decided that it will be in the best interest of the patients to use non-AC coaches. Railway ministry sources also pointed out many hospitals do not have AC wards for Covid-19 and other patients, and there is nothing wrong in non-AC coaches to be used as COVID-19 wards.
If there is any requirement to control the heat at the coaches, rooftop isolation or any other suitable measures will be taken by the Railways, as per the guidelines issued by the health ministry for the conversion of coaches to Covid-19 facilities.