Over three months since the outbreak of the coronavirus in China’s Wuhan province, India went into lockdown for a period of 21 days as the pathogen makes its way from one state to another. The Health Ministry which is leading the charge on the pandemic has roped in the armed forces as the first respondent to the crisis.
While the Indian Army was the first to establish a quarantine facility in Manesar, which has since been increased to five across India, a positive case in the Ladakh Scouts regiment has sent the alarm bells ringing in the defence corridors. The 34-year-old soldier, a resident of Chuhot village in Leh, came in contact with his father, who had returned from a pilgrimage in Iran by an Air India flight on February 20 and tested positive for COVID-19.
Following the development, several policy decisions have been taken by the forces to ensure the safety of men and women in uniform.
The Army has ordered that leave granted to jawans and officers will be extended beyond March 21 in view of the ongoing crisis. Defence PRO, Rajasthan, Colonel Sombit Ghosh said that decision has been taken at the Army Headquarters and that while some soldiers returning from leaves were allowed to join their units, leaves of others is being extended. Talking about the quarantine facility raised by the Army, Col Ghosh said, “In Jaisalmer, an Army quarantine facility has been set up and Indians evacuated from several countries are being monitored here. Indians were flown to the quarantine facility in three batches of 236, 53 and 195. A total of 484 Indians are in quarantine in the Army Wellness facility,” Colonel Ghosh said.
The Army has ordered that leave granted to jawans and officers will be extended. PTI
The Army, which has been continuously engaged in awareness campaigns across the country is witnessing its role being widened to create further awareness of the ongoing viral respiratory disease and isolation wards have been created at all military hospitals with a team of specialist doctors on the standby. Meanwhile, all non-essential movement of personnel has been suspended. The Army has advised its personnel to limit interactions with civilians and keep alert.
An officer posted in Punjab told Business Standard that quarantine facility has been set-up and anyone returning from leave is to mandatorily undergo 14-day quarantine in the unit. The units are procuring hand washes, masks, sanitisers for the troops and all personnel has been advised to regularly wash hands and report immediately in case of any symptoms.
An army jawan guards at the LoC in Mendhar Sector of Poonch district.The Army HQ has banned foreign travel, including private, until further orders and ordered decongesting of office space and continuous monitoring. Seminars, conferences, and exercises with foreign nations also stand cancelled. Cutting down on the manpower in a bid to practice social distancing the Army ordered that 35 per cent officers and 50 per cent Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) in the Headquarters will take turns in working from home for a week from March 23. The second group of officers and JCOs will proceed on home quarantine on March 30.
The Army has advised its personnel to limit interactions with civilians and keep alert. PTI
Meanwhile, similar instructions have been issued by the Indian Air Forces (IAF), an officer of the rank of Flight Lieutenant confirmed saying that the bases are on a state of lockdown and civilian entrance has been restricted. The personnel have been advised to remain on the bases. The IAF has also canceled the Service Selection Board (SSB) interviews till further orders and has urged candidates to contact their respective boards.
The Indian Air Force has so far evacuated 1,059 civilians from Iran, China, Italy, and Japan and quarantined them on bases in Manesar, Hindan, Ghatkopar, Mumbai, and Jaisalmer.
The Indian Navy has set up a quarantine camp onboard INS Vishwakarma at Vishakhapatnam equipped to accommodate nearly 200 personnel. It has also set up isolation facilities at INHS Asvini in Mumbai. The Naval base, Kochi under Southern Naval Command (SNC) is gearing up to provide quarantine facilities for civilians while coordinating with the Kerala state health officials and Ernakulam district administration.