Indian Navy assumes key role in pandemic fight

Indian Navy assumes key role in pandemic fight

Top Stories | May 20, 2020:

Mandeep Singh

When the city of Karwar on India’s west coast asked for medical assistance at the start of the nationwide lockdown March 25, 2020, the Indian Navy hospital there began treating civilian COVID-19 patients. By April 16, eight of the nine patients had recovered from the virus and were back home with their families.

India’s Navy has been called to action in the fight against COVID-19 while most of the country’s 1.3 billion people have been under lockdown. Navy personnel deployed across the country, tending to the sick and quarantined, supplying food to migrant workers and delivering urgent medical supplies.

“Our ships and aircraft are on standby to support the government and civil administration,” Adm. Karambir Singh, India’s chief of naval staff, said in a video address April 7, 2020. “We are ready to extend support not only to our country but to Indian Ocean region nations, [and] island territories of our country.”

Adm. Singh emphasized the vigilance needed to keep Navy personnel virus-free. “It is a very difficult task, as physical distancing on ships and submarines is a challenge,” he said, stressing the need to use masks at all times.

The Navy’s Eastern Command has been training its nonmedical personnel and civilians as nursing assistants to aid doctors and paramedics treating COVID-19 patients in quarantine and isolation facilities in the cities of Visakhapatnam, Chennai and Kolkata, the Navy’s press office stated.

The Navy, coordinating with local health officials, also opened isolation facilities in Mumbai and Visakhapatnam to house Indian nationals in quarantine after returning from abroad. The camps are staffed by trained personnel and equipped with such comforts as a TV room and sports equipment. After quarantine, some evacuees returned home to the northern city of Srinagar on a C-130 military transport plane.

Also in Visakhapatnam, the superintendent of the city’s naval dockyard, Rear Adm. Sreekumar Nair, provided local authorities with equipment that enables six patients to receive oxygen simultaneously from a single jumbo-size tank.

The Navy distributed food packets to migrant laborers stranded by the lockdown in Mumbai and on the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal. Navy personnel, pictured, also supplied food and COVID-19 awareness and lockdown instructions at a children and family shelter in the islands’ capital of Port Blair.

“The coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented, and it has never been seen before, and its impact has been extraordinary across the globe, including India,” Adm. Singh said. “But I can say with satisfaction that our personnel and our community have risen to the occasion proactively.”

Mandeep Singh is a FORUM contributor reporting from New Delhi, India.