Delhi has nearly 45,000 coronavirus cases so far
Amid a worryingly steady surge in novel coronavirus cases across the country, Indian Railways has deployed 960 specially-outfitted coaches to five states to act as COVID-19 isolation and treatment centres for patients with mild symptoms.
Delhi will have 503 of these coaches stationed at nine locations across the city; this will increase number of beds for coronavirus patients in the national capital by over 8,000. As a result, it will also increase the number of hospital beds and resources available for those with severe symptoms.
Several modifications have been made to these coaches, each of could house up to 16 COVID-19-positive people, to ensure that patients being treated can stay comfortably and those attending to them can take precautions against infection.
Among the modifications are the additions of garbage bins by the side of each berth, mosquito nets over all windows (these are all non-AC coaches) and, importantly, oxygen cylinders in each coach for patients who may have breathing problems.
Other modifications include plastic curtains segregating parts of the coaches from each other to minimise the spread of the infectious COVID-19 virus.
Changes have also been made to the toilets - some have been converted into shower areas.
Sanitisation and waste removal is a major challenge as well, given the number of people who will be living in confined quarters. Special collection points have been set up in each coach for this purpose.
Yet another challenge is the brutal heat. With Delhi temperatures crossing 40 degrees Celsius on a daily basis, it is not yet known how the Railways will handle this problem.
270 of these special coaches have been deployed at Delhi's Anand Vihar Railway Station and normal services have been suspended as all platforms have been reserved for COVID-19 isolation coaches and medical personnel taking care of the patients.
The entire station has been into three zones - red, orange and green. The platforms, where the coaches will stand, will be a red zone; this means only healthcare workers and sanitisation staff dressed in full PPE (personal protective equipment) can enter.
Social distancing markings being drawn on platforms at Anand Vihar Station
The placement of these coaches in Delhi comes amid a crisis in the national capital. Delhi has seen a massive spike in coronavirus cases, with over 1,000 new infections reported daily for a few days now.
The Delhi government, which is scrambling for hospital beds and medical resources, has predicted it will need around 80,000 additional beds by the end of next month for the estimated 5.5 lakh cases.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah met Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal this week to review the situation; this was after the Supreme Court tore into the Delhi government for its "horrific, horrendous and pathetic" handling of the crisis.
Late Wednesday night, Mr Shah's ministry also said that the price of COVID-19 tests in Delhi would be capped at Rs 2,400; it was earlier Rs 4,500.
Delhi has 44,688 cases and 1,837 deaths have been linked to the virus.