Mumbai: As the city is grappling with the rising number of coronavirus cases, Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking, the civic transport service, has converted seven of its AC mini-buses into ambulances. Also Read - Coronavirus Cases in India Cross 1.9 Lakh-mark; Delhi Seals Border With UP, Haryana For 1 Week | Key Developments

These ‘semi-ambulances’ will be used to ferry suspected coronavirus patients, or those who have only mild infection, to COVID-19 Care Centres, a senior official said. Also Read - Imran Khan Says it Was 'Mistake' to Enforce Strict Lockdown Even as COVID-19 Cases Cross 72,000-mark

Seats were removed and air-tight partition was put in to separate driver cabins from the rest of the vehicle in seven buses at the BEST’s workshop in the last three days. Also Read - Coronavirus in Maharashtra: 2361 Cases, 76 Deaths in 24 Hours; Total Tally Crosses 70,000-mark

“We have been asked to provide 20 more such buses-turned-into-ambulances,” the BEST official said.

BEST staff was converting three buses into ambulances every day and 20 make-shift ambulances will be ready in the next week, he added. Some of the converted buses have already been pressed into service.

“We are also converting some of our buses into proper (full-fledged) ambulances and the first such ambulance is expected to get ready tomorrow,” said Surendrakumar Bagde, general manager of BEST.

This will reduce the pressure on dedicated COVID-19 ambulances, he said. At present, out of 93 ambulances of 108 services in the city, 66 are available for COVID-19 patients, and these are attending average 400-500 patients daily.

BEST, which caters to 35 lakh commuters in Mumbai and neighbouring cities, has a fleet of over 3,500 buses.

Since lockdown began in March, BEST buses are being used for ferrying emergency and essential services staff. It is operating special services with 1,650 buses, 650 of which are used for transportation of hospital staff, police personnel, and government staff.

“Mumbai is fighting a war against coronavirus and by transporting frontline emergency and essential service staff,

The undertaking has also provided six buses for transportation of dry ration to different parts of the city.

BEST buses are also being used to transport food parcels, sanitary napkins and diapers and other essential items to slum-dominated areas.

“We are daily ferrying nearly 2.5 lakh food packets in 24 wards from 79 community kitchens using 70 air conditioned mini-buses,” Bagde said.