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Agartala: Around 10 days after chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb announced Tripura a coronavirus-free state on April 23, alarms went off again in the state when 13 Border Security Force (BSF) jawans tested positive for COVID-19 on May 5. However, another factor that raises concern is the lack of adequate facility in ambulances used to transport the COVID-19 patients.

Such an incident surfaced on Tuesday when the ambulance used to transport five of the 13 jawans from the security force’s Ambassa unit in Tripura’s Dhalai district to Government Medical College & Govind Ballabh Pant Hospital in Agartala lacked facilities such as oxygen cylinder. This was informed by the ambulance driver who had to cover a distance of around 80 km before reaching the hospital.

He also informed that the windows of the ambulance were kept open as the jawans had problem breathing. “I repeatedly kept asking them to keep the windows closed but they kept saying that they had trouble breathing and that is why they opened the window,” the driver said.

Windows of the ambulance were kept open as the jawans faced problems in breathing

The health ministry had laid down a standard operating procedure (SOP) for medical staff attending to or transporting suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases. The SOP mentions that, ideally, there should be ambulances identified specifically for transporting COVID suspect patients or those who have developed complications, to the health facilities. The SOP also says that ambulances having equipment like BLS (basic life support) should be empanelled for COVID patients.

With the 13 additional cases, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Tripura has gone up to 42. While all efforts are being made to battle the pandemic, unavailability of basic facilities in ambulances used to transport COVID-19 positive patients raises serious concerns.

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