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Lockdown, despite lapses, curbed Covid from spreading fast: Apollo chairman Dr Prathap Reddy

Speaking to ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta, Prathap Reddy advised people to refrain from panicking as stress lowers immunity, and makes people more vulnerable to Covid.

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New Delhi: The lockdown did have major lapses, but it ensured that Covid-19 cases in India did not rise as rapidly as it did in the rest of the world, said Dr Prathap Reddy, chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group, Friday. 

Speaking to ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta at the digital Off the Cuff, Reddy said, “Lockdown made a significant impact. If you leave alone a few lapses and there were major lapses, it made us realise that here is disease and it is going to hit and it is going to transmit so rapidly and we need to find a cure … the only way to contain infectious diseases is to keep people apart.

“I compliment the government on the lockdown. They contained the infection from spreading very fast … lockdown was a very wonderful thing but there were some things that spoiled the whole thing. Migrants, the way they moved, mass movement. If people had stayed separate at home, probably the disease would have been much less. But it is because of the lockdown that the growth of the disease is not as much as in the rest of the world,” said Dr Reddy. 

“We want it to peak and then flatten,” he added.

Reddy, however, said achieving the peak will depend on how the country manages the epidemic — whether there are more lockdowns on the anvil or other strategies are adopted and also how well people observe the three principles of not getting infected.

“As long as we do that, we can postpone the peak; but one day, we want it to peak and then flatten. And that’s the day we say ‘wow’,” he added.

It is important to note, he said, that India has a lower mortality than the rest of the world and that it started from a place when there was not only no medicine, but no testing kits also. 

But that has changed now and fairly good quality testing kits are coming now, and their test results are reliable, he said.

Reddy’s prescription for Indian healthcare to be prepared for any crisis of this nature in the future is to double the number of doctors, treble the number of nurses and quadruple the number of paramedics.

Also read: Govt denying but India had Covid community transmission in April, health ministry paper says

Panic lowers immunity

Dr Reddy advised people to refrain from panicking as it would only make them more vulnerable to the infection as stress lowers immunity.

Instead, he said, concentrate on the prescribed preventive measures. He admitted that the virus is “acting aggressively, defying normal features such as the effect of temperature”, but would not go so far as to admit the possibility of it having originated in a laboratory. 

But China, he said, could have hidden something from the world. How else did the disease not spread much beyond Wuhan, but is raging across the world now, he asked.

Talking about the prognosis of Covid patients in Apollo, Reddy said 93-94 per cent patients in the intensive care units recover. 

He also talked about how Apollo is using fever clinics and has developed its own protocol — Kavach — to deal with Covid patients. 

In Apollo, 120 staff members on Covid duty contracted the disease, of whom 41 recovered. Another 140 of them caught it from the community. But in the hospital there is an “iron curtain” between Covid and non-Covid patients. Staff members on Covid duty stay separately and do not mix with other staff. 

Also read: India reduced Covid growth rate from 24.3% in pre-lockdown to 3.8% in Unlock 1.0: Govt data

Public vs private

According to Reddy, “About two-third of our patients, thanks to reforms from the early 80s, have the benefit of using private healthcare … whatever is happening in the world (in healthcare), we are not behind. Because in India, our skills and intelligence are second to none … people who can afford should take insurance for them and their families. Today only 20 per cent of those who can afford are taking insurance.”

“When somebody in their family falls ill and they become broke, the media will criticise us.”

Responding to a question on whether India needs more private or public healthcare, he said,” Public expenditure is very low compared to the rest of the world. We spend 1-1.5 per cent now. Our request was to make it 3 per cent, private can spend 7 per cent.”

He was also critical both of price control in healthcare and the recent trend of state governments asking for a minimum number of beds in private hospitals to be reserved for Covid patients. 

“Quota system doesn’t belong to this,” he said, adding that it is not possible for any hospital to give all beds to Covid as in that case, other patients would suffer. 

He then went on to talk about how profits in any industry other than healthcare are not questioned, but in healthcare they are somehow associated with guilt. 

“Most hospitals today make all their accounts freely available. The aim is to make 15-16 per cent so that we give 8 per cent to our investors and another 8 per cent we plough back into hospitals,” he explained. 

Covid, he said, has affected bottom lines to the tune of 60 per cent, but it is the smaller medical establishments that have really borne the brunt. 

On price fixing, he gave the example of how it is never questioned why a cup of coffee costs Re 1 on the roadside and Rs 500 in a five star hotel, but when it comes to hospitals, there are attempts to regulate prices. 

“Profit is not a guilt. I am not feeling guilty,” he said.

He did not comment about Ramdev’s Coronil “cure” for Covid, but said he himself uses Ashwagandha as an immunity booster. 

Also read: How ‘overburdened’ anaesthesiologists are silently leading India’s Covid battle


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  1. He does not feel guilty making a profit out of healthcare. His hospitals’ doctors are told in no uncertain terms that they are expected to bring in a certain quota of regular business. This means unnecessary ops and investigations and procedures! It’s good he sleeps well at night. And is he talking abt profiting from the pandemic as well?! I didn’t want to carry on listening! Ayyo Rama!

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