All the three forces have already enforced a "no movement" policy under which almost all their bases have been put under total lockdown barring the wings handling key operational matters and strategic surveillance, they said

NEW DELHI: The outbreak of coronavirus at a key naval facility in Mumbai where 26 sailors have been infected is a wake-up call for stricter implementation of all laid down norms to insulate around 15 lakh armed forces personnel from the pandemic, military officials said on Saturday.

All the three forces have already enforced a "no movement" policy under which almost all their bases have been put under total lockdown barring the wings handling key operational matters and strategic surveillance, they said.

Official sources said the top brass in the defence ministry is reviewing the overall preparedness of the armed forces to deal with the pandemic.

The Navy has strictly ordered all its bases to not allow any movement of its personnel and assets besides suspending all training activities after the first case of the infection was detected on April 7, a Navy official said.

The Navy has suspended all transfers and fresh postings besides ordering people on leave to stay back home. Those on board various ships and other platforms were told to extend their stay, he said.

"We are now restricting movement of people from one building to another building inside the bases and commands. We are restricting any movement to and from the bases," said another official.

An Indian Air Force official said the Air Headquarters have issued specific guidelines to all the bases and establishments to insulate the personnel as well as platforms from the virus. The IAF has not reported any case of the infection so far.

He said the aircraft sent on various evacuation missions to coronavirus-infected countries were too "quarantined" for 14 days besides being "disinfected" thoroughly.

An Army official said a "rigorous protocol" is being followed at all the bases and establishments of the force to protect the 15 lakh soldiers from the virus.

Listing the measures, he said all the establishments are operating with skeleton staff and people coming back from leave or emergency out-station assignments are being made to stay "separately" for at least couple of weeks.

"We are even extending distance between the beds in barracks. It is an invisible war we are fighting," the official said.

About frontline bases along borders with Pakistan and China, the official said stricter norms are being followed to insulate them and that chances of the virus travelling to the areas were minimum.

The official said movement of people in 62 cantonments have also been strictly restricted as part of precautionary measures.

All the infected sailors of the Navy were serving at the INS Angre in Mumbai, a shore-based logistics and support establishment, and they are currently undergoing treatment at a Navy hospital.

The Navy has launched a large-scale contact tracing operation to track people who may have come in contact with the sailors. Almost all the residents of the building inside INS Angre are being tested, the sources said.

The Western Naval Command is considered a strategic establishment as it takes care of India's maritime interests in the the Arabian Sea as well as parts of the Indian Ocean. The Naval dockyard in Mumbai is only few hundred metres away from INS Angre.

The outbreak of the coronavirus cases in Western Naval Command comes at a time when a number of navies globally are grappling with the pandemic.

Over 660 sailors on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier of the US Navy, reported coronavirus infection. A third of the nearly 2,000 sailors onboard French Navy's aircraft carrier Charles-de-Gaulle and its support ships are also infected with the virus.

The Indian Army on Thursday directed all its military establishments, cantonments, formation headquarters and field units to totally restrict movement of forces till April 19 in view of the government's fresh lockdown related guidelines.

The order also mentioned that offices in Army headquarters, command headquarters and formation headquarters would start functioning with 50 per cent manpower from April 19 to May 3.

It said all training activities and temporary duties will remain suspended till May 3, adding directions on actions to be taken post the lockdown period will be issued on receipt of fresh orders from the government.