Retired medical personnel from the armed forces recalled to work in COVID-19 hospitals, IAF airlifts cryogenic containers to store oxygen from Singapore

Published : April 26, 2021 20:45 IST

An IAF C-17 aircraft being loaded with cryogenic containers at Changi airport, Singapore, on April 24. Photo: PTI

With COVID-19 cases escalating across India, medical personnel of the Indian armed forces who have retired or taken premature retirement during the last two years are being called back to work in COVID facilities near their current places of residence. This was one of points brought to the notice of Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was briefed on April 26 by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat on the preparations and operations undertaken by the armed forces to aid and deal with the COVID situation. The CDS also informed the Prime Minister that oxygen cylinders available with armed forces in various establishments would be released for use in non-military hospitals.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) issued after the CDS had briefed the Prime Minister also said: “Other medical officers who retired earlier have also been requested to make their services available for consultation through medical emergency help lines.” The Prime Minister was also informed that all medical officers on staff appointments at Command headquarters at Command-, Corps- and Division-level and similar headquarters of Navy and Air Force will be employed at hospitals.

Nursing personnel are also being employed in large numbers to complement the doctors at the various hospitals. The CDS briefed the Prime Minister that the armed forces were creating medical facilities in large numbers and, wherever possible, military medical infrastructure would be made available to civilians.

Modi also reviewed the operations being undertaken by the Indian Air Force (IAF) to transport oxygen and other essentials across India and from overseas. Over the past few days, the IAF has been airlifting empty oxygen tankers and containers to various oxygen filling stations across the country to speed up the distribution of the much-needed liquified medical oxygen (LMO) that is so vital in treating COVID-19 patients. The IAF has also been transporting essential medicines and equipment required by the designated COVID-19 hospitals in various parts of the country. As reported by Frontline, a C-17 Globemaster of the IAF had on April 23 helped the Telangana government transport two LMO tankers from Begumpet airport to the Rourkela Steel Plant in Odisha. The Telangana government is hoping for more such sorties.

On April 24, a C-17 Globesmaster III aircraft of the IAF returned after picking up four high-capacity oxygen-carrying cryogenic containers from Singapore. The cryogenic containers are needed to store LMO and a dearth of these containers has been preventing many States from transporting and supplying oxygen to their COVID-19 designated hospitals and centres, where the demand for oxygen has far outstripped supplies. Taking off from Singapore’s Changi International Airport, the IAF C-17 successfully landed at Panagarh Air Force Station (AFS) in West Bengal, from where the tankers were routed by road to steel plants, to be loaded with LMO.

On April 26, a C17 transport aircraft landed back at Panagarh AFS after airlifting seven empty cryogenic oxygen containers from Dubai. On April 25, an IAF C-17 aircraft airlifted two cryogenic tankers from Gwalior Air Force Base and dropped them at Ranchi.