New Delhi: During the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in India, between April and May when the cases were at their peak, the two most affected cities of Delhi and Mumbai saw over 140 air ambulances flying in and out of these two cities.
Delhi alone witnessed around two air ambulances flying in and out every day between 1 April and 20 May. The Delhi International Airport, which is operated by GMR, saw over 100 air ambulances flying in 50 days during the peak of the second wave.
Officials from the Mumbai international airport, one of the largest airports in Maharashtra operated by the GVK group, told The Sunday Guardian that they too witnessed an increasing air traffic for air ambulances and flew around 44 air ambulances in and out of Mumbai between April and May.
At the Delhi airport, most of these air ambulances flew from the newly constructed General Aviation Apron for faster movement. The Apron was built almost a year ago for the movement of private jets. For these special air ambulances, pilot and crew movements happened through this dedicated terminal, while the movement of patients was taken care of by giving patient-carrying ambulances direct access to the parking bay through airside gates.
Inside the air ambulances, Covid positive patients were kept inside isolation pods, having continuous oxygen support facility. These pods are designed and made in Germany. Delhi Airport authorities say that as per the current protocol, only certified doctors, paramedic staff and nurses, who are able to handle critical care during flight, are allowed to board such flights.
Delhi airport officials told this correspondent that most of these flights are activated on a very short notice, ranging from just two to three hours and, therefore, at times it becomes challenging to coordinate with all the stakeholders. But the official added that the Delhi airport had brought in special provisions to expedite these clearances, which included arranging approval for such flights, staff etc.
Delhi currently has around 12 air ambulances, operated by Medevac Operations which is specialised in handing medical evacuation flights.
For the Mumbai airport, officials from the GVK group, speaking to The Sunday Guardian, said that since Mumbai and Maharashtra were reeling under an extraordinary situation, operations at the Mumbai airport were limited; even then, the airport handled over 44 air ambulance flights during the second wave of the pandemic.
A spokesperson from Mumbai airport told The Sunday Guardian that the Mumbai airport had drafted a protocol for handling air ambulance requests wherein as soon as a request is received, all stakeholders are intimated for smooth clearance of the flight and hassle-free journey of the patient from in and out of Mumbai.