The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was also defined by a rapid spread of the virus from urban areas to villages. 40 per cent of the total cases in Rajasthan were from rural areas which also accounted for a high percentage of deaths - 53 per cent. The biggest challenge for the health infrastructure in tackling the spread was identifying cases, especially in rural areas. People were afraid to report cases and their symptoms as they were worried that they would be taken away to hospitals in cities and isolated from their families.
This mindset and the under-reporting of cases only helped spread the virus further. When 22-year-old Vipra Goyal saw the swift and destructive spread of the virus in the second wave, he decided something had to be done. That is when he came up with an app called "Corona Kavach Saathi" that could help identify Covid cases. He also organised a team of volunteers who would survey households through the app and then provide medicines to people who were displaying symptoms of COVID-19.
Mr Goyal went a step further with his app. In case symptoms persisted, then, through the app, the volunteers can also help organise RT-PCR tests for COVID-19 patients.
Doing away with bulky registers and government files, the app makes it easy to collect data of suspected coronavirus cases, isolate them and then begin treatment. Early identification is one of the key steps to stop the spread of the virus.
The app has been used as a pilot project in three villages in Rajasthan's Dausa district.
The data collected by the app is shared with local government health authorities. Based on this, health officials can prescribe medicines that Mr Goyal and his band of volunteers can give people.
Mr Goyal created this app in May this year when the pandemic was at its peak. It has been verified by NIC (National Informatics Centre), Rajasthan. The idea behind the app was to identify Covid cases in rural areas and stop their spread by providing timely treatment, isolation at home, medical help and advice.
45-year-old Kishan Lal, a farmer Dausa, had all the symptoms of COVID-19; cough, cold and fever. But he was too scared to seek medical help. However, through this app, he was identified and advised to isolate. He was also provided with medicines.
"I was worried, so I did not report my symptoms, I thought they will take me to a hospital for 14 days. But then the Corona Kavach app people came to me. They isolated me and gave medicines . This helped me immensely," said Kishan Lal.
Talking more about the app, Mr Goyal said, "Each gram panchayat has one auxiliary nurse midwife (ANM), two Asha workers and one village team. This is not enough to treat over 6,000 people. So, we came up with the corona helpers app, where volunteers go door to door, survey people, note down their symptoms and then, we provide free delivery of medicines to their doorstep."
Vipra Goyal was financed by his mother, Dr Neelima Goyal, who runs an NGO called Parmanu Saheli. He covered 1,200 households in three villages - Haripura, Maheshwara Khurd and Morapatti. 700 people were surveyed through the app in these villages in Dausa. 200 people who displayed symptoms were provided with medicines. Of these, ten were severe cases for which RT-PCR tests were organised.
Vedu Gupta, an auxiliary nurse midwife posted at Maheshwara in Dausa, said the app helped local health authorities immensely in treating people who were just not coming forward to report symptoms.
She said, "There were a lot of people with fever, cold and cough but nobody was reporting symptoms. If the government team would go to their homes, they would hide. They thought the government will screen them and put them into hospitals away from their homes. So there was a fear of reporting Covid symptoms."
Asha Meena, the village head of Maheshwara Khurd where Mr Goyal and the volunteers worked added, "We used local people as volunteers that helped build confidence as people would speak to people from their own areas. This helped us give timely treatment to potential cases and stop the spread of corona further."
The Corona Kavach App also constantly monitors COVID-19 patients while they are undergoing treatment, keeping track of their oxygen levels and symptoms, and monitors if medical help needs to be stepped up.
Mr Goyal is now hoping his design of the Corona Kavach app will be approved and used by the Rajasthan government. The second wave of the pandemic may have abated and the numbers have fallen but the man is continuing with a second round of surveys with his app in Maheshwara Khurd.