Over 5,200 isolation coaches have been readied for use by the state governments to isolate Covid-19 patients once they run out of beds

The Covid-19 isolation coaches being provided to states by the Indian Railways do not have air-conditioning (AC) to reduce the risk of virus transmission through the AC ducts, the Ministry of Railways has said.

The issue of AC vs non-AC coaches was discussed with NITI Aayog and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

“It was agreed that AC coaches would not be suitable in view of the potential transmission risk of COVID 19 virus through AC ducting, and generally a higher ambient temperature was expected to assist in fighting the Virus and cross circulation of air through open windows will benefit patients,” the ministry said in an official statement issued on Friday.

A well-ventilated area with a slightly higher temperature was also expected to aid in recovery, the ministry pointed out.

The clarification came amid a debate in some sections of the media and the social media questioning why these isolation coaches were not air-conditioned given the hot weather in most of the country right now.

Over 5,200 such isolation coaches have been readied for use by the state governments once they run out of beds to isolate and treat Covid-19 patients. In keeping with the Health Ministry guidelines, these coaches would be used only for suspected or confirmed Covid-19 patients with very mild symptoms.

In Delhi, 267 such coaches have been placed at the Anand Vihar railway station.

Each such isolation train or Covid-19 care coaches have to be mapped to one or more dedicated COVID Health Centre and at least one Dedicated COVID Hospital where patients can be shifted to in case their condition starts to deteriorate.

Doctors and paramedics needed to handle patients in these coaches are to be provided by the governments of states where they are stationed. Indian Railways is only a service provider.

According to the Indian Railways, the following steps are being tried out to keep the isolation coaches cool:

  • Cover sheets (White Canat) or Suitable Material are being placed over the isolation coaches stationed at platforms to provide higher insulation from outside heat.

  • Arrangements are also being made to paint the roof with a heat reflecting paint

  • Bubble wrap films are being applied on the coaches, which are expected to reduce temperatures inside coaches by 1°C..

  • Heat Reflective Paint on Roof: A trial was conducted by Northern Railway by painting the roof of isolation coaches with heat reflective paint. During trial, it was found that temperature inside the coaches can be reduced up to 2.2°C..

  • Trials are also being planned for another coating developed in association with IIT, Mumbai. The trial would be done on 20/6/2020 and the results would be recorded..

  • A trial has been done by placing portable coolers inside the coaches. A temperature reduction of upto 3°C was achieved using these coolers..

  • Water mist systems are also being tried out. In the current season of dry air, it is expected that the resulting temperature reduction would enhance the comfort of expected patients.