As we begin Unlock 5.0 in India, realisation strikes that we are three-quarters into the year. A year that has been unlike any other in most of our lifetimes with the COVID-19 pandemic bringing the world to a halt. The SARS-CoV-2 virus has changed our lives enforcing a ‘new normal’ as we return to our daily lives. While we are slowly but surely gaining an upper hand on the novel coronavirus, we cannot afford to let our guard down. It was towards the end of February thisyear as the number of COVID-19 cases were increasing globally and taking its first steps into the country that we realised that fighting the pandemic would require a comprehensive strategic approach.
The first step to breaking the chain was implemented by the Government through the lockdowns. The second step required private healthcare to step up to the challenge and work side by side with the government in the battle against the novel coronavirus. At Apollo Hospitals, we began work on a plan that would encompass all aspects from information, screening and assessment, testing, to readying the infrastructure for quarantine for the asymptomatic positive cases and treatment facilities for the mild, moderate and severe cases. A month of intensive preparation, bringing together the best of resources of the Apollo Hospitals group led to the launch of ‘Project Kavach’ in March. ‘Kavach’ meaning shield brought together various elements to form a complete response plan to face the COVID-19 threat at the frontlines.
With COVID-19 having an exponential spread, the number of patients were snowballing into the thousands and lakhs. Project Kavach was designed to break the chain through interventions at every stage - detection, testing, isolation, and treatment. Project Kavach included many components coming together to form a multi-pronged beachhead against COVID-19.
Information was the first step with a focused communication strategy to all connected nursing homes and all referral doctors with credible information regarding COVID-19. For the general public, screening and assessment through a specially designed AI-based Coronavirus Risk Assessment scan on the Apollo 24/7 app and website allowed screening and initial assessment about the potential risk of having the virus through simple interactive questions. Based on the risk level, people were guided to contact the help center set up by Apollo Hospitals. Patients at risk and falling under the ICMR approved testing parameters were guided to the authorised testing centres for the COVID-19 test. The online Coronavirus Risk Assessment scan was a major success with over 14 million people taking the assessment till date.
Testing was the second critical part of breaking the chain, Apollo laboratories approved for COVID-19 testing provided home collection of samples as well as drive-through testing using ICMR approved testing methodologies.
Then came quarantine and isolation – another important aspect covered under Project Kavach. This initiative branded ‘Stay I’ provided medical rooms in hotels with light medical supervision for quarantine and isolation in a clean and comfortable environment. This ensured that people who are asymptomatic or have only mild symptoms and don’t need hospital beds were not using scarce resources, thus reducing the burden on hospitals providing acute care for the seriously ill. Since its launch in March this year, Stay I has successfully touched lives of 2 million individuals and serviced over 65,000 bed days, out of which around 20% have been free of cost with the support of financial partners, HUL, SBI and Deutsche Bank. The project currently operates 23 facilities across the country in 13 cities such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Guwahati, Nashik, Pune, Vizag, Indore, and Mysore.
The most important element of Project Kavach was of course treatment. Necessary protocols were in place to manage patients who test positive for COVID-19 at all stages. A dedicated healthcare team trained in various aspects of the diseases including selfprotection, identification of symptoms and information flow in case of suspected cases was in place. Till date number of COVID tests conducted across the Apollo group are 239,371. For COVID treatment, 2578 dedicated beds were made available across the group; while over 800 ventilators were installed. The largest number of isolation and ICU facilities in the private sector enabled advanced care to be given to over 2000 serious patients a month. As of date, the total number of patients treated for COVID are 75,154.
Continuity of care for existing patients was the final component of Project Kavach. The existing vulnerable patient pool who were already under Apollo’s care were provided access to healthcare remotely using digital technology. The Apollo 24/7 app enabled telemedicine, doctor connect, home sample collection and home delivery of medicines to these patients so that their treatment for existing health conditions could continue without a break. Since the app went live, a total of 4 million people registered on the Apollo 24/7 app; whereas 1,500,000 individuals took the online Covid Scan on the app. In addition to the scans, Apollo 24/7 app witnessed over 250,000 online consultations and delivered medicines to 300,000+ people.
For others, 3800 Apollo pharmacies across 18 states were kept open to serve people with all required medication, consumables and supplements with capacity ramped up from the 500,000 people served on a daily basis to 1 million if required.
Since its launch, Project Kavach has achieved its aims through a robust roll-out and has impacted millions of lives. However, the mission is not yet complete. We are also preparing for the future when a vaccine is made available and we would be required to administer it to a large population within a short time. For the present, while the number of new cases are showing a decline, there is always a risk of a second wave as we unlock. We need to be on our guard and not rest till COVID-19 is conquered! we should start gearing up to administer vaccines to our entire population. We will re-train our entire teams and create the infrastructure and capability to ensure that we can administer 1 million vaccines a day.