India turns to cardboard beds in coronavirus battle

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The New Delhi government is installing thousands of cardboard beds in a spiritual centre on the outskirts of the city that is being converted into a makeshift medical facility for COVID-19 patients

The New Delhi government is installing thousands of cardboard beds in a spiritual centre on the outskirts of the city that is being converted into a makeshift medical facility for COVID-19 patients (AFP Photo/Money SHARMA)

India is deploying thousands of beds made of cardboard to makeshift medical facilities as it struggles to deal with the surging number of coronavirus cases.

The low-cost beds are chemically coated to make them waterproof and can hold a 300-kilogramme (660-pound) load, said Vikram Dhawan, who along with his brother came up with the design while they were stuck at home during the country's months-long lockdown.

"One person can pick it up very comfortably," Dhawan told AFP at his factory in the northern city of Bhiwadi which already makes cardboard products.

"It's compact, lightweight and can be manufactured and assembled in minutes."

The New Delhi government is installing 10,000 of the beds in a spiritual centre on the outskirts of the city that is being converted into a dedicated coronavirus facility.

Mumbai, which like the capital has seen its hospitals overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, is also using them.

"The most important thing is that the virus only stays on the surface of cardboard for 24 hours," Dhawan said.

"On any other surface, metal, wood or plastic, it stays for three to four days."

A study published in March in the US journal NEJM showed the coronavirus can remain for up to three days on plastic but only for 24 hours on cardboard.

Mattresses for the beds are supplied by Sheela Foam Limited which teamed up with the Dhawan brothers earlier this year.

"We typically associate beds with steel or wood but the requirement here was such that we needed a kind of disposable or sanitisation bed," said Sudhir Varanasi, head of supply chain management at Sheela.

"Both here have a protective coating so that they can be cleaned and not get spoiled after any accidental spillage," Varanasi said as workers set up the beds at the vast Radha Soami Spiritual Centre.

The Dhawan brothers have not publicly revealed the price tag of making each bed, but it reportedly costs around $10.

Once the coronavirus epidemic is over, they see a market for their product.

"I think 50 to 60 of our own workers have taken it home and are very happy using it everyday," said Dhawan.

"It costs the amount you'd spend each time you go out to eat at a restaurant."