Indian Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane said it was the army’s “earnest responsibility” to keep the borders safe while the country was preparing and fighting the coronavirus pandemic

Indian Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane on Thursday said that the army is undertaking its operational tasks like before and the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak has not hit its preparedness.

“There are contingency plans in place and spread of Covid-19 will not affect the core efficiency of the army. The temporary phase of postponing our routine activities will soon be overcome by rescheduling them as and when the situation stabilises. As of now, our focus will be to combat Covid-19 aggressively by taking precautions, following the lockdown and curfew measures effectively and preparing own resources for future scenario,” the chief said.

He said it was the army’s “earnest responsibility” to keep the borders safe while the country was preparing and fighting the pandemic.

He said that at present Covid-19 was in preparatory stage of impact in India and the country was making concerted efforts to prevent the disease from establishing a firm base. “Concurrently, we are preparing for stringent counter measures, should Covid-19 manage to gain a foothold. The next few weeks will be crucial to prevent negative effects of this deadly mutant virus,” Naravane said.

On a day defence minister Rajnath Singh asked the armed forces, defence public sector undertakings and other organisations to pull out all the stops to fight the Covid-19 outbreak and extend assistance to civil administration, the army chief said his force was ready to provide any assistance to civil authorities whenever called for.

“Dedicated and motivated staff is ensuring that the people are taken due care of under the supervision of skilled medical authorities. All possible arrangements have been made to make their stay comfortable and memorable (at army’s quarantine facilities),” he said.

He said it was difficult to predict how the situation would unfold. “However, after having analysed the impact of Covid-19 over the last two-three months in other countries, one can start planning and preparing for difficult times. The army has inherent capability to rise up to various emergency situations by virtue of its organisational structure and training,” he said.

The army chief said there is likely to be an increase in demand for medical services for both infected and suspected cases within the force as also requisitioning from civil administration in the coming days.

“Necessary instructions have been passed on to Command Headquarters to augment medical facilities and infrastructure including increasing the capacity for surveillance and isolation at military hospitals.”