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NEWS STATES TAMIL NADU TAMIL NADU Railways defend move to convert coaches into isolation wards Mohamed Imranullah S.CHENNAI , APRIL 09, 2020 23:59 ISTUPDATED: APRIL 09, 2020 23:59 IST The Ministry of Railways on Thursday defended its decision to use as many as 5,000 rail coaches as isolation/quarantine facilities to fight COVID-19. It told the Madras High Court that the decision was taken due to the flexibility the coaches offered in terms of being moved to any part of the country as and when required. Justice S. Vaidyanathan recorded the submissions made by Srinivasan standing counsel for Southern Railway, and reserved his verdict in a case filed against such conversion. The standing counsel also submitted in court a communication issued by the Railway Board on March 31 to General Managers of all zonal railways. The communication listed out elaborate measures to be followed before converting the coaches into isolation wards. It insisted upon changing the Indian style toilets in the coaches into bathing rooms; providing buckets, mugs and soap dispensers; fixing lift type long handles in wash basins, affixing mosquito nets on windows and ensuring availability of oxygen cylinders. The Railway Board had also earmarked the number of coaches to be converted into isolation wards in every zone. South Central Railway topped the list with 486 coaches followed by 482 coaches in Central Railway and 473 in Southern Railway. The counsel also stated that these coaches would be used to isolate patients suffering from mild or very mild symptoms. Primary idea behind the move was to deal with eventualities that might arise due to non-availability of beds in hospitals. In such situations, those requiring intensive care could be accommodated in hospitals and the rest could be shifted to the rail coaches. “A unique feature of these coaches is that they can be moved on wheels and deployed in any region in the country,” the counsel said.