Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday reviewed the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) Covid relief efforts and stressed on the need to increase the speed, scale and safety of operations in transporting oxygen tankers and other essential material to fight the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
Briefing the Prime Minister on the air force’s efforts to help fight the outbreak, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria said that IAF has ordered 24×7 readiness of its entire heavy-lift fleet and substantial numbers of its medium-lift fleet to operate in a hub and spoke model to swiftly meet all Covid-related tasks across the country and overseas, the PMO said in a statement.
“Aircrews for all fleets have been augmented to ensure round-the-clock operations,” the statement quoted the IAF chief as saying. Bhadauria also told Modi that IAF has set up a dedicated Covid-19 air support cell to ensure faster coordination with different ministries and agencies.
IAF is making a significant contribution in the fight against Covid-19. For more than a week, it has been ferrying empty cryogenic oxygen containers to filling centres in India from different domestic locations, and has been making sorties abroad to help hospitals tide over the oxygen crisis.
Multiple IAF sorties were underway on Wednesday as well, officials familiar with the development said. Oxygen tankers are being airlifted in C-17 heavy-lift planes from Bangkok to Jamnagar; Agra, Chandigarh, Hindon, Bhopal and Gwalior to Ranchi, Indore to Raipur, Bhopal to Surat, and Jodhpur and Indore to Jamnagar.
“PM spoke about the need to ensure that IAF personnel engaged in Covid-related operations remain safe from infection. He also spoke about the need to ensure safety of all Covid-related operations,” the PMO statement said.
Modi enquired about the health of IAF personnel and their families during the briefing. The IAF chief informed him that “near saturation vaccination coverage has been achieved in the IAF,” the statement said.
On Monday, too, PM Modi reviewed the military’s preparations to assist the government in Covid-19 management. Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat gave a detailed presentation to the Prime Minister on April 26.
He informed him that all military medical personnel who retired or took premature retirement in the last two years are being recalled to work in Covid-19 facilities near them. Medical officers who retired more than two years ago have also been requested to make their services available for consultation through medical emergency helplines.
The armed forces, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and defence public sector undertakings too are working for Covid-19 relief.
They have set up Covid hospitals, ramped up oxygen production, airlifted medical staff and oxygen containers, and liaised with state governments to help deal with the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the country.