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Friday, June 05, 2020

We called the coronavirus helpline and here’s what happened

A day after two fresh cases of the novel coronavirus were reported in India, taking the total number of those infected in the country to five, Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured citizens there was “no need to panic”.

Written by Abhishek De | New Delhi | Updated: March 3, 2020 8:08:06 pm
At a coronavirus help desk at the Government Gandhi Hospital in Hyderabad. (File)

On a day an Italian tourist tested positive for novel coronavirus, taking the total number of cases in India to six so far, Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured citizens there was “no need to panic” and released a 24×7 helpline number (+91 1123978046) and email id (ncov2019@gmail.com) to report any suspected cases and to seek further help.

A call to the helpline was quickly answered by a staffer at the control room, who claimed to be from the Health Ministry. The executive first asked about my travel history and if I had been to any of the coronavirus-affected countries in the past 20-30 days. He then asked about my symptoms and noted down the name and the nature of the grievance.

On being told that I have been coughing and sneezing for the past two days, the executive recommended going to a general physician as 99 per cent of such cases happen due to the weather change. “If it does not subside after two-three days, you can visit our health officer who will do a free check-up and conduct tests for coronavirus,” the executive said.

He then gave me the number of a doctor from West Delhi (where I stay) and asked me to consult him for further guidance. The executive explained that Delhi has been divided into 16 zones where a doctor will be available round-the-clock.

Doctors walk past the entrance of an isolation ward where people who returned from China are under observation in Hyderabad. (File)

The executive further said the check-up and tests were free of cost and if required the suspected patient may be sent to a nearby quarantine facility or advised home isolation depending on the doctor’s recommendation.

A 10-member team runs the helpline facility and it will be increased to 15 in the coming days due to the rise in the number of panic calls from various parts of India. The executive said the helpline number was also open to Indians residing abroad.

“Our work is to see who can give better facility for treatment of coronavirus near your home,” he said.

On Monday, the Union Health Ministry reported two new cases of COVID-19, one in Delhi and another in Hyderabad. Several state governments have stepped up efforts to detect and check the spread of the infection, which has killed more than 3,000 people globally.

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