Over the past few weeks South Africans may have received an SMS or WhatsApp from the Department of Health with their coronavirus (COVID-19) test result, or an alert that they may have been in contact with a person who has tested positive.
The messages are sent by an official government system called COVIDConnect.
“One of the critical aspects of combatting COVID-19 is the ability to detect positive cases early and then track and trace their contacts to help them,” said Health Minister Zweli Mkhize when he recently launched the system.
COVIDConnect does exactly this. The digital system sends an SMS to tell people who have had a COVID-19 test, at either a public or private facility, that their test result is available.
The SMS directs them to a WhatsApp line, which provides their results – whether positive or negative.
If the test result is positive, the system asks the person for the telephone numbers of the people they have been in contact with, and then automatically sends an SMS to those people to let them know that they could have been exposed to the virus.
Your name and contact details are not provided to anyone and your privacy is protected.
“When the initial WhatsApp line was introduced in mid-March, you could get the latest information, news, prevention tips and wellness advice. We introduced screening and risk assessments a month later,” says Gaurang Tanna, Project Manager of COVIDConnect and Head of Policy Coordination and Integrated Planning at the National Department of Health.
“COVIDConnect now supports the public in that they don’t have to wait as long for their results,” he adds.
It also provides information about isolation, quarantine and healthcare facilities.
How to use COVIDConnect
To use COVIDConnect, add the number 0600 123 456 to your cellphone’s contacts. Type ‘hello’ and send it to the number. If you don’t have a smartphone, dial *134*832# and follow the prompts.
To receive results on WhatsApp, send the message ‘results’ to 082 046 8553 and follow the prompts.
For the system to work, users must supply healthcare workers with their correct date of birth, physical address and cellphone number when testing for COVID-19.