Vijayawada: Vijayawada woke up to a tragic news on Sunday as 10 people died after a fire broke out at a makeshift COVID-19 care centre in the city. Dr. Ramesh Hospital had recently leased the four-floor Swarna Hotel and converted it into an isolation centre for COVID patients.

Reportedly, 31 suspected and COVID-positive patients were being housed in the facility along with six medical staffers.

Speaking to NewsMeter, Dr. Venkateshwara Rao of AIIMS, said COVID-19 patients are extremely vulnerable to incidents that affect their oxygen intake. “The smoke from the fire, which contains carbon monoxide, can harm the breathing abilities of a COVID-positive patient. People often think that running into smoke in case of a fire can save their lives. However, if a COVID-positive patient, or even a person who has recovered from the virus, runs into the smoke, they will succumb to asphyxia quicker than an average person.”

The director-general of police, D. Gautam Sawang, said 10 people who lost their lives in the fire died due to asphyxiation.

Meanwhile, the district administration tested the victims posthumously and discovered that two among the 10 dead were COVID-positive.

Dr. Ravi Andrews, a nephrologist at the Apollo Hospital, said the lungs of COVID patients are damaged for a long time once they are affected by the virus. “Those vulnerable to it will experience long term ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome) after they are affected by COVID-19. The virus damages a person's lungs and hinders the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide for at least five-six months after a patient recovers,” he added.

He further elaborated that 99 per cent of the time, the novel coronavirus affects a patient's lungs and damages it for the long term. He also said hospitals should be extremely careful in storing their oxygen tanks. “Fire, as we know, is accelerated by oxygen. A COVID-19 facility will have several oxygen cylinders. In case of a fire, they can prove dangerous,” he added.

Priyali Dhingra

Priyali Dhingra is a post graduate in Communication Studies from Hyderabad Central University. She has previously worked as a photojournalist, editorial, and graphic design intern in The Indian Express, Newslaundry, and NDTV. Reigning from Delhi, she has an avid interest in photojournalism, and all things visual. She has also represented India as a delegate in the JENESYS 2019 Student Exchange Program with the Government of Japan. Having pursued her graduation in history from Delhi University, she was also a part of her college's theatre society. Her primary interests include: photography, poetry & politics.

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