ISLAMABAD: State-owned Pakistan Railways is converting some of its train coaches into isolation wards to support the country’s health infrastructure in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The first such quarantine facility with 50 beds was established in Rawalpindi, a city adjacent to Islamabad.
“We have initially set up a 50-bed quarantine facility in air-conditioned coaches, and each cabin is an independent unit with all basic health facilities,” Syed Munawar Shah, Railways Rawalpindi divisional superintendent, told Arab News on Tuesday.
He said that with little modification to other train coaches in Rawalpindi, the capacity can be increased to 300 beds.
Similar isolation wards are being set up at six other divisional headquarters namely Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Shakkar, Quetta and Multan, enanling Pakistan Railways to accommodate 2,000 coronavirus patients, Shah said.
He added that the railway company also has a network of hospitals in all major cities, and smaller health units in more remote areas. “We have also started setting up special places, wards at those hospitals.”
While no patients have been admitted to the railways’ isolation wards yet, Dr. Nadir Ayub Wazir, medical superintendent at Pakistan Railways in Rawalpindi, told Arab News that in case of emergency the isolation facility will be ready to move those quarantined to government-designated hospitals. “We have made arrangements for shifting patients to the hospital,” he said.
Many trains stand idle as passenger rail links have been suspended since last week amid coronavirus lockdowns across the country.
There are no plans to resume their operations anytime soon, the prime minister’s special assistant on national security, Moeed Yusuf, told reporters on Monday. Only freight trains remain in service.
The number of known coronavirus cases in Pakistan surged to 1,865 on Tuesday, with 25 fatalities, pushing the country to make preparations for a sudden spike in infections.