India has closed its railways for the first time in 167 years. Now trains are being turned into hospitals

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Labourers work on train coaches that will be used as temporary isolation wards in preparation for coronavirus-infected patients during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, at a workshop in Allahabad on April 4, 2020. (Photo by SANJAY KANOJIA / AFP) (Photo by SANJAY KANOJIA/AFP via Getty Images)

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 25, Indian Railways took the unprecedented move of suspending passenger trains across the country until April 14.

It was the first time in 167 years that Asia’s oldest rail network had been suspended.

Now the railway network has decided to convert as many as 20,000 old train carriages into isolation wards for patients as the virus spreads.

The network, which is the world’s fourth-largest rail operator and India’s biggest employer, already operates 125 hospitals across the nation, so has the expertise to expand into mobile beds.

While India’s hospital system isn’t overwhelmed yet, the repurposed trains could ease some of the pressure if the number of coronavirus patients begin to rise.