Unused Trains in India Being Converted Into Hospitals

After India went into lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 25, Indian Railways decided to suspend all passenger trains across the country until April 14, marking the railway’s first suspension in 167 years.

Indian Railways, Asia’s oldest railway network, operates over 20,000 passenger trains a day from 7,349 stations across India. While freight trains continue to operate, thousands of passenger trains are currently unused.

To put many of the idle trains to good use, Indian Railways is converting nearly 20,000 old train carriages into isolation wards for coronavirus patients. The network already operates 125 across the nation.

According to CNN, India has reported 4,288 cases of coronavirus and 117 deaths as of April 1. While the country’s hospitals are not currently overcrowded, the repurposed trains will be ready to use if the number of cases continues to rise.

“Now, the railways will offer clean, sanitized and hygienic surroundings for the patients to comfortably recover,” Piyush Goyal, the Railways Minister via Twitter.

Each carriage available will be sanitized and converted into a hospital ward able to accommodate up to 16 patients, complete with a nurses’ station, a doctor’s cabin and enough space for medical supplies and equipment. Each train will be sent to locations with rising cases of coronavirus.

Preparing to Combat Coronavirus: In a novel initiative, Railways has converted train coaches into isolation wards for COVID-19 patients

Now, Railways will offer clean, sanitised & hygienic surroundings for the patients to comfortably recover. #IndiaFightsCorona pic.twitter.com/miYO3LOGfN

Local health authorities will assign government doctors, paramedics, nurses and volunteers to the trains.

Additionally, railway factories are assessing the possibility of manufacturing hospital beds, stretchers, medical trolleys, masks, sanitizers, aprons and medical apparatus such as ventilators for use in railway hospitals and other government hospitals.

“The first 5,000 isolation wards will be ready within a fortnight, and if necessary, more carriages can be converted within 48 hours”, said Rajesh Dutt Bajpai, executive director of information and publicity at the Railway Board.

The trains will not act as a substitute for full-service hospitals and are to be used for patients who have tested positive for coronavirus but are not critically ill.

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Saudi Arabia buys a piece of Carnival Corp

The Public Investment Fund, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth
fund, has acquired an 8.2% stake in Carnival Corp.

According to Carnival Corp.’s securities filing on Monday, Saudi
Arabia acquired 43.51 million Carnival shares. Carnival’s closing stock price
of $8.49 last Friday makes the transaction worth about $370 million.

With the news, Carnival Corp.’s share price increased 22% on
Monday afternoon. The company’s stock has fallen about 80% since mid-January.

Like other cruise companies, Carnival Corp. has paused its
operations since mid-March due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Cruising has been
suspended through the middle of May.

Carnival Corp. last week shored up its liquidity, securing about $500
million from a stock sale and about $5.75 billion on the bond market.

Carnival Corp. borrowed at a high cost. The company is
paying 11.5% interest on $4 billion in three-year senior secured notes and
5.75% interest on $1.75 billion in three-year senior convertible notes.

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Caribbean Resorts Supporting COVID-19 Fight

Caribbean hotels are stepping up to aid in the fight against COVID-19, providing accommodations for quarantine centers and housing for essential personnel during the outbreak.

Gordon “Butch” Stewart, chairman of Sandals Resorts International (SRI), is providing Jamaica’s government with the 52-room Carlisle Inn hotel in Montego Bay as an incubation center, said company officials in a Jamaica Observer report (the newspaper is owned by Stewart).

The SRI chairman has additionally helped finance the purchase of 40 ventilators for $20 million, “to be used to treat COVID-19 patients,” the report said. “The hotel will be at the disposal of the Government for as long as it takes to bring this COVID-19 disease under control,” said Adam Stewart, SRI’s deputy chairman.

Dr. Christopher Tufton, Jamaica’s minister of health and wellness, had earlier this week appealed to Jamaican hoteliers to provide emergency accommodation for patients recovering from COVID-19. Jamaica had 27 confirmed coronavirus cases through March 27, with one death and two recoveries.

Tufton said SRI’s offer “[is] the kind of response that we are very appreciative of as part of the national plan to respond to this COVID threat,” in the Observer report. The hotel is “very appropriately positioned to assist, in that it has its own rooms with bathrooms, a common area from which our staff can manage the process, and the location is strategic to Cornwall Regional Hospital,” Tufton added.

Although the company’s Caribbean resorts remain temporarily closed, Stewart is also retaining Sandals’ permanent workers rather than instituting layoffs, opting to pay 40 percent of employee salaries fortnightly. SRI workers will also receive health insurance benefits and paid vacation leave.

SRI also distributed food and vegetables from its freezers to create care packages for employees. “We were very proud to have done it,” Stewart said. “It shows the relationship we have with our team members who are at the center of who we are as a brand.”

Meanwhile, several U.S. Virgin Islands hotels are keeping their doors open to essential personnel during the COVID-19 outbreak, said officials at the USVI Hotel & Tourism Association and the St. Croix Hotel & Tourism Association.

The territory’s government has authorized hotels and resorts to remain open to provide housing for essential personnel including government workers, relief workers, business travelers and airline associates, officials said.

The properties remaining open include St. Thomas’ Bluebeard’s Castle, Calypso Realty, the Green Iguana Hotel and St. Croix’ Buccaneer Hotel, Carambola Beach Resort & Spa, Hotel Caravelle and Tamarind Reef Resort.

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Coronavirus test included in luxury Swiss hotel’s quarantine package

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to surge around the world, the hospitality industry has all but shut down. Airlines are cutting flights. Governments are telling citizens to stay home. So, to secure reservations in this unprecedented climate, some hoteliers have gotten creative.

For Le Bijou, a high-end Swiss hospitality company that’s part luxury hotel, part serviced apartment, that has meant launching the Covid-19 Service – a customisable stay with add-ons such as in-room coronavirus testing, doctor visits and 24/7 nurse care.

“In beginning of March, revenues had dropped significantly,” said Alexander Hübner, co-founder and chief executive of Le Bijou Hotel & Resort Management, which operates properties in Basel, Geneva, Zurich and other cities in Switzerland. “We said, OK, we need to react immediately to that.”

Before the outbreak, Le Bijou catered to high-end clientele who could afford its rates, which ranged from about $1373 to $3500 per night. According to Hübner and the Le Bijou website, that guest list has included the royal family of Saudi Arabia, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and “Wolf of Wall Street” author Jordan Belfort. Yet Le Bijou’s guest reservations and events bookings plummeted just the same after the disease reached Europe.

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