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World's First Multiple Patient Covid-19 Intensive Care Evacuation

On 4 March, International SOS coordinated a highly complex evacuation of four ICU patients, repatriating the individuals from La Réunion island to Paris.

The operation was commissioned by the French Ministry of Health and carried out in collaboration with the SAMU, the emergency medical services in France, the Regional Health Agency, Air Austral and Aéroports de Paris. This is the first time that so many ICU COVID-19 patients have been transported simultaneously on such a long-haul flight.

“Transporting one or two seriously ill patients is part of everyday life. This particular situation was highly unique and even more complex, with all four patients in an unconscious and intubated-ventilated condition. Medical evacuations, particularly during the pandemic, are complex but this was even more so, requiring an even greater level of care and coordination. We were honoured to be called on for our expertise and proud to be part of the team that was able to transport the patients safely“, explained Dr Arnaud Derossi, Regional Medical Director at International SOS.

Evacuation details

The chartered Air Austral Boeing 787 took off from Réunion Island at 9:33 p.m. local time (6:33 p.m. Paris time) and landed at Paris Charles-de-Gaulle airport on Friday 5 March 2021 at 5:15am local time, after an eleven-hour flight. A civil aviation exemption had been necessary to allow Air Austral to embark so many patients on stretchers and such a high volume of oxygen.

The mission was staffed by the SAMU from Paris and La Réunion, with 5 ICU doctors, 5 ICU nurses, 7 EMTs and 1 logistician, while International SOS provided a flight nurse and a logistics expert for supporting the various teams and interfacing with the aircraft crew and the International SOS Paris assistance centre.

The International SOS Assistance Centre’s role was to interface with the various SAMUs, the airport and the aircraft, under supervision by the Health Ministry crisis centre, planning for and managing all requirements. Also, a critical aspect was to be able to quickly react in case of the aircraft diversion due to a technical incident, in order to prepare ground support for the patients. Due to the severity of the disease, advanced equipment was loaded and installed on the aircraft such as portable blood analysers, ultrasound machine and 2 ECMO machines (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation), as well as backup ventilators. This represented one ton of medical equipment, along with 9,500 litres of oxygen for each patient.



1st Use Of A Digital Covid-19 Health Certificate To Cross An International Border Completed By Traveller To Singapore

International SOS, the International Chamber of Commerce, and AOKpass Pte. Ltd. have announced the first use of ICC AOKpass to provide a digitally verifiable COVID-19 health certificate for entrance to Singapore.

The ability to authenticate health records at border points of entry will help to facilitate the safe and efficient resumption of international travel during the global pandemic.

On 21st December, a Singapore citizen returning from Japan on Singapore Airlines flight SQ637 successfully used the ICC AOKpass for the first time, to officially present a negative COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (“PCR”) digital test result for arrival verification at Changi Airport’s immigration counters. This was the first time an immigration authority has used a blockchain based, digitally verifiable health certificate.

On 21st December, a Singapore citizen returning from Japan on Singapore Airlines flight SQ637 successfully used the ICC AOKpass for the first time, to officially present a negative COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (“PCR”) digital test result for arrival verification at Changi Airport’s immigration counters. This was the first time an immigration authority has used a blockchain based, digitally verifiable health certificate. Shinagawa East Medical Clinic, issued the digital certificate on ICC AOKpass, which was scanned by Affinidi’s Universal Verifier solution at Changi Airport. Following the successful pilot programme, all travellers, starting with Malaysia and Indonesia will now be able to use ICC AOKpass to digitally authenticate their COVID-19 test results, as well as any other necessary health credentials during immigration at Changi Airport.

Paper certificates have been used for border crossings previously. The advent of digitally verifiable certifications represents a quantum step forward in the security and safety of international travellers. Digital verification of COVID-19 health status has been difficult because of the need to incorporate testing labs, airlines and immigration processes within a single technology.

From 23 December, travellers from Malaysia and Indonesia will have dedicated immigration lanes at Changi Airport, to digitally verify their health credentials using the ICC AOKpass app. Before departure to Singapore, passengers will need to check the Singapore SafeTravel website for travel requirements, then book a pre-departure COVID-19 PCR test at healthcare providers that issue digital health credentials through secure mobile apps like the ICC AOKpass.

These travellers will each receive their test result with a unique QR code in their ICC AOKpass app, which authenticates and securely stores their negative COVID-19 test results. 

Upon arrival at Changi Airport, they can use the dedicated immigration counters to swiftly verify their health credentials by scanning the given QR code in their ICC AOKpass app. This facilitates faster immigration checkpoint clearance for travellers, enables more hassle-free travel, and reduces risks of crowds at the airport. At the same time, authorities will be able to combat incidents of COVID-19 test fraud and implement a global standard for travelling, which will further enhance efforts to ensure the safe resumption of global travel.

In the coming months, the pilot programme will be progressively rolled out to other international travellers, allowing for a quicker, hassle-free travel.

Ms Juliana Gim, Managing Director of International SOS Singapore, shared, “Facilitating the 1st digital certificate entry into Singapore is yet another important milestone in the resumption of global travel during the COVID-19 outbreak. We began pilot tests of the ICC AOKpass for Singapore-based employees of International SOS in May 2020. We also worked with Singapore company Energy Drilling Management in July 2020, to fast-track their return to essential business travel and work over the past few months. With the adoption of ICC AOKpass at Changi Airport, alongside our global network of 90,000 providers, we strongly believe such secure technology will be instrumental in establishing a trusted and standardised global system to facilitate the return to work and travel across all industries, with Singapore at the forefront of these efforts.”

Dr Chester Drum, Co-founder of AOKpass, said, “As we look towards the revival of widespread international travel and trade, there is an urgent need for a common framework in certifying, authenticating and securing the results of a COVID-19 test for air transport stakeholders and local health authorities. In addition, users must trust that their data privacy is managed well, with no risk of personal data leaks. The use of blockchain technology is a critical step in combating the challenges of forged tests and medical records, while enabling quick and secure verification of COVID-19 test results for travellers to have peace of mind throughout their journey.”

ICC AOKpass is a health records authentication and presentation technology launched by the International Chamber of Commerce (“ICC”), International SOS and SGS Group, the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. It was co-developed with Singapore-based start-up AOKpass Pte Ltd, and enables governments and border authorities to reopen cross-border travel efficiently and safely. 

To address privacy concerns, data entered into ICC AOKpass remains decentralized at all times and does not rely on centralised data records or external systems. Hardcopy certificates issued by medical professionals are digitised, authenticated and then made available for efficient verification by employers, authorities or any other third parties with no external transfer of personal information.

Security, transparency and strict privacy preservation are enabled using leading-edge blockchain technology co-developed by start-up AOKpass. ICC AOKpass is built on the Ethereum public blockchain network, ensuring complete user control over peer-to-peer sharing of COVID-19 medical compliance and personal health information.

In addition, all medical information and health certificates are attested to by certified medical practitioners, preventing fraud, reducing risks of in-flight infections, and rebuilding confidence in international travel.

Recognising the need for a common framework for the resumption of international travel and trade, ICC AOKpass is also adaptable to the specific needs of different companies and countries – evolving to align with ongoing development of COVID-19 serology testing methods and global best practices. For example, the app is being used to facilitate quarantine-free flights between New York City and Rome, through close collaboration with Delta Airlines and Alitalia. Since mid-December, all travellers have to present their digitally authenticated COVID-19 test results to board quarantine-free flights between Aeroporti di Roma and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

ICC AOKpass will also eventually allow verification for other immunisation and medical compliance records held by individuals, charting the path towards a safer, quicker, and more secure reopening of cross-border travel and trade.

For more information on ICC AOKpass, see

Register your interest for an ICC AOKpass pilot: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


International SOS And Chinese Enterprise Association (SINGAPORE) Sign A Partnership Agreement

International SOS and Chinese Enterprise Association (Singapore) have signed a partnership agreement. The two parties will work together to assist the members of the association to protect the health and safety of employees, raise awareness of risk prevention in overseas operations, and enhance the commercial resilience of business operations.

Chinese enterprises are paying more attention to overseas operations. International SOS will provide medical and security risk prevention and management solutions for members of the association. It will help Chinese enterprises to reduce overseas operational risks and support them with their “go global” strategies from their bases in Singapore. 

Leaders of the Chinese Embassy in Singapore participated in the signing ceremony, under the joint witness of a number of government officials, business and international SOS representatives. Qiu Zhikun, president of the Chinese Enterprise Association (Singapore), and Tan Mui Huat, President and CEO, Asia, International SOS, signed the partnership agreement. At the same time, the Chinese Enterprise Association (Singapore) also recognised International SOS as their 'Travel Safety and Health Ambassador'.

Chinese companies have adopted Singapore as one of the footholds for internationalisation. In the process of expanding their business to the Asia-Pacific region, and the world, there is a need for professional organisations to help them carry out medical and travel safety management. In response to the needs of Chinese companies expanding overseas, International SOS has also designed integrated medical and safety based on the “3A model” – Assess, Advice and Assist. Risk prevention and control solutions help companies effectively identify, prevent and respond to risks and enhance the sustainable development of business operations.”

According to the agreement, International SOS will provide members of the association with practical training on medical safety skills and share cutting-edge information; actively participate in and assist the association to organise first-aid training, health promotion lectures; provide medical and travel security risk management advice and assistance to members of the association. It will support Chinese organisations to enable better fulfilment of Duty of Care obligations and achieve sustainable development of the company.

Qiu Zhikun, president of the Chinese Enterprise Association (Singapore), said: “Singapore is one of the preferred foreign investment destinations for Chinese companies and an important platform for Chinese companies to go global. The complex security environments and different standards for medical facilities overseas pose a challenge to the medical, health and safety of the employees of Chinese enterprises. The Chinese Enterprise Association (Singapore) is pleased to sign a memorandum of understanding with International SOS to jointly safeguard the new security operations and overseas business development of Chinese enterprises."

Tan Mui Huat, President and CEO, Asia, International SOS, said: "International SOS has a global service network and solutions to provide comprehensive health and safety protection for employees and promote the sustainable growth of global business. International SOS is pleased to partner with Chinese Enterprise Association (Singapore) to provide members with world-class service, advanced management perspectives and best practices for overseas risk prevention and management, provide security for new operations in China, and develop smoothly in Asia Pacific and globally."

After the signing of the memorandum, International SOS held the "Travel Risk Outlook 2019 Seminar". This discussed new changes, new challenges and new programmes in the Asia-Pacific region and global health and safety risks in 2019. The conference also provided risk mitigation recommendations to help Chinese companies cope with the various security and medical risks that their growing global workforce may encounter.



International SOS Clinics In Tianjin And Tianjin TEDA Remain Open

The fire at a logistics facility in the Binhai Port area of Tianjin Municipality resulted in two large explosions on 12th August at around 11.20pm. 

Immediately after the explosion International SOS staff provided triage and first aid treatment for the seriously injured. In addition, International SOS sent a team to Tianjin to ensure continued support to our clients and members. 

Both International SOS clinics in Tianjin and Tianjin TEDA remain open.

The authorities have given the following travel advice:

• Avoid the vicinity of the fire and explosion in Binhai until the situation has normalised.
• Follow all directives issued by the authorities, and observe any exclusion zones and road closures established around the site of the explosion.
• Anticipate traffic disruption in coming hours in Tianjin, particularly in and around the Binhai area, due to road closures and related safety measures.
• International SOS clients are encouraged to monitor travel security alerts for further developments.

For additional information or support, International SOS clients please call the Beijing Assistance Centre on (0)10 6462 9100.


New Study Reveals Benefits Of Prevention Programmes To The Bottom Line

  • Average investment in an international assignment is US$311,000 per annum
  • Cost of a failed assignment ranges between US$570,000 to $950,000
  • Pre-travel health check programmes reduce the occurrence of failed assignments
  • Investing in pre-travel health checks results in up to 2.5X cost savings
  • Employee malaria prevention programmes could reduce the number of fatal cases by 70%

A new study reveals the benefits of implementing pre-travel health checks and malaria prevention measures for business travellers and international assignees.
Return on Prevention, published by Prevent and commissioned by the International SOS Foundation, analyses the average monetary investment required to relocate an employee for an international assignment and the costs that incur when an assignment fails due to an employee’s inability to fulfil the assignment due to poor health. 
The study shows how the benefits of implementing a travel health prevention strategy significantly outweigh the operating costs of the programme. 
A medical check for travellers and international assignees aimed at identifying pre-existing medical issues before assigning employees to a foreign country. This ensures employees are fit for the proposed assignment and its working conditions. It identifies general and work-related health problems before the assignment begins:

  • The cost-benefit analysis showed that $1 invested returns a benefit ranging from $1.6 (minimum scenario) to $2.53 (maximum scenario).

A malaria prevention programme aimed at employees travelling and working in malaria-risk regions. Employees are given information before departure and receive prophylaxis medication and other technical protection means such as mosquito-nets, insecticide sprays and repellents as well as a malaria curative kit: 

  • The malaria prevention programme reduced the occurrence of fatal cases by 70%. The benefits also outweigh the costs in the case of this programme: For each $1 invested, the return was estimated at $1.32.

Laurent Fourier, Director of the International SOS Foundation, spoke to the results of the study, "Over the years we have released many reports on why an organisation has a duty of care – a moral, and at times legal, responsibility – to protect their people working overseas or on assignment. This study proves there are tangible commercial incentives to investing in preventive programmes, in addition to fulfilling an organisations duty of care. Implementing quality, appropriate pre-travel health and malaria programmes can save lives and cut costs. Businesses should not ignore these findings.”

 Marc De Greef, Managing Director of Prevent said, “This latest financial analysis proves there is a return on investment resulting from good preventive health and safety practices when managing mobile employees.  

Companies who invest in the prevention of health risks commonly experience many benefits. These prevention programmes should be essential management practices for a sound business.”

Prevent’s Return on Prevention study can be downloaded here.


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