New Delhi: The air force transport fleet has been activated to transport essential equipment and medicines and warships have been kept on standby for quick deployment as India gets ready to battle the most difficult phase of the Covid-19 crisis.

Defence minister Rajnath Singh, who took stock of preparedness levels of the armed forces on Wednesday, has directed that all support must be made available to the civil administration that is coordinating efforts to keep the situation under control.

While the armed forces have already made quarantine facilities available and defence public sector units are producing essential medical equipment, the air force has now been activated to transport medical supplies to Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Manipur and Nagaland on an urgent basis, given the disruption in land transport.

The air force said it has airlifted 25 tonnes of supplies in the past three days and all of its transport fleet is now geared to meet emerging demands from across the country. The C 17 heavy lifter, AN 32 transport aircraft and even the C 130J Special Operations aircraft are now being tasked to ferry essentials on the request of civil authorities.

In addition, the smaller Dornier aircraft are being operated by both the air force and navy to carry samples for testing and medical teams that need to be sent on an urgent basis. “The medical supplies include personal protective equipment (PPE), hand sanitisers, surgical gloves, thermal scanners and medical personnel,” the air force spokesperson said.

The navy is also keeping its warships on standby if assistance is required in transporting large quantity of goods to coastal regions and islands. While earlier, two amphibious warfare ships were kept ready for sending assistance to neighbouring nations if required, other ships can also be made available to transport critical supplies if the need arises.

The defence minister was informed by Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat that more than 9,000 hospital beds have been made available exclusively to deal with Covid-19 cases, besides the multiple quarantine facilities that are currently functional in different parts of the country.

The armed forces medical services will shortly be dispatching critical medical equipment to Nepal as well, with army chief General MM Naravane acting on the direction of the defence minister to provide all possible aid to neighbouring nations. More than 8,500 doctors and support staff are also available to extend assistance to civilian administration. Besides, the armed forces are also keeping retired health professionals at readiness to volunteer their services as the situation evolves. As many has 25,000 National Cadet Corps (NCC) cadets are being mobilised for local assistance in coordination with civilian authorities.

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