It was the first time in 167 years that Asia’s oldest rail network had been suspended.
Now the railway network has decided to convert as many as 20,000 old train carriages into isolation wards for patients as the virus spreads.
The network, which is the world’s fourth-largest rail operator and India’s biggest employer, already operates 125 hospitals across the nation, so has the expertise to expand into mobile beds.
On April 1, India had recorded 4,288 cases of Covid-19, including 117 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University — a relatively small number for a nation of 1.3 billion. While India’s hospital system isn’t overwhelmed yet, the repurposed trains could ease some of the pressure if the number of coronavirus patients begin to rise.
“Now, the railways will offer clean, sanitized and hygienic surroundings for the patients to comfortably recover,” Piyush Goyal, the Railways Minister said in a tweet.
India’s railway network
Normally, Indian Railways runs more than 20,000 passenger trains a day, on long-distance and suburban routes, from 7,349 stations across India.
The lockdown has put nearly 67,368 kilometers of track out of use — enough to circle the equator 1.5 times — and left thousands of passenger trains sitting idle. Freight trains, or goods trains as they are called in India, remain operational.
Railway bosses have instructed each of India’s 16 railway zones to identify non-air conditioned carriages that are no longer in operation on passenger routes to…