Drivers stand near rickshaw ambulances in New Delhi. Reuters
It's not the most conventional way to get to hospital, but with Delhi running short of ambulances, authorities have turned some of the city's ubiquitous three-wheeled autorickshaws into makeshift ambulances to ferry COVID-19 patients.
Actual ambulances are hard to come by as a devastating surge in cases overwhelms the healthcare system. Families have had to make their own arrangements including paying exorbitant amounts to private ambulance operators to take the sick to hospital.
The Delhi government, in association with a non-profit organisation, has kitted out more than a dozen autorickshaws with hand sanitisers and face masks, while oxygen cylinders are provided on a need basis. The service, which began officially on Tuesday, is free.
Autorickshaw driver Raj Kumar has taken patients to the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital, Delhi's largest facility, which is overflowing with COVID-19 patients.
A man and his mother ride an auto rickshaw ambulance in New Delhi. Reuters
"We must all help each other out at this time of need to get out of this situation," said Kumar, who wears a PPE suit. There is a plastic partition between him and the passengers at the back.
"If everyone stays home because they are scared, then who is going to help those in need?"
Mohit Raj, founder and executive director of the Turn Your Concern Into Action foundation, said the response so far had shown the scheme needed more vehicles.
"Now we are getting calls not just of COVID patients but from front-line workers who are unable to find patient conveyance, as well as from people with other ailments," he said.
Raj added he has received requests from other parts of the country to start services there.
In a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat said oxygen would be released to hospitals from armed forces reserves and retired medical military personnel would join COVID-19 health facilities.
"Our prayers for a speedy recovery go to all those suffering from the pandemic in our neighbourhood & the world,” the prime minister said on Twitter.
Daily infections rose by 382,315 on Wednesday, health ministry data showed. Government modelling had pointed to a peak by Wednesday, a few days earlier than thought, since the virus has spread faster than expected.
The latest phase of these repatriation flights, known as the "Vande Bharat Mission," began on March 1 and will last till March 28. Slightly more than 1,350 international flights are scheduled to be operated from 28 countries in this phase, enabling an estimated 260,000 Indians to travel home.
While it was their third over-all victory and thus their third take-away of the “Rolling Trophy,” the contingent also bested the other contestants in the topic “Industrial Animal Agriculture - A Compelling Contributor to Climate Change?”
Dr Omar Al Muthanna said, “The UAE is a beacon for many countries as well as one of the fastest growing economies in the region. We are appreciating the long-term relationship between the two countries of the UAE and Pakistan.
With Emirati graduates representing 54% of the class of 2022, the 13th cohort included 233 graduates comprising 145 Bachelor’s, 73 Masters and 15 Executive Diploma graduates.