UPDATE: When this story was originally published yesterday, it only listed the zero-rated USSD service for MTN, Telkom and Vodacom, as per a press release sent to Hypertext. Cell C have confirmed that it too made the HealthCheck mobile tool freely available to its customers, but this was not reflected in the press release. The story has been updated accordingly.
ORIGINAL STORY FOLLOWS BELOW.
As South Africa enters the first week of level 4 lockdown, many South Africans are heading back to work, as well as heading into public spaces with increased frequency. If handled incorrectly, it may result in a spike in positive COVID-19 cases in the country, which is why the National Department of Health (NDoH) has announced a new HealthCheck tool for South Africans.
The HealthCheck tool will function as a digital self-assessment tool, and consequently allow the NDoH to have insight into early detection, mapping and management of COVID-19 over the coming months.
The Department explains the members of the public will be able to use HealthCheck to self-assess their COVID-19 risk by completing a few simple questions.
Based on their answers and their symptoms or exposure history, they will be classified as low, moderate or high risk and suggested actions or guidelines will be recommended based on this classification.
The NDoH adds that actions could include remote medical advice or a suggestion to visit a nearby healthcare facility.
HealthCheck will be available on USSD for those without airtime or internet connectivity, with network operators MTN, Telkom, Vodacom and Cell C making access to the USSD line free.
The USSD version is available by dialling *134*832# where people will be prompted to follow the menu instructions and answer a series of short questions.
The questions that are asked on the USSD line include location (province and town), age group, symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat, etc.), exposure to infected persons and acceptance of terms and conditions and confirmation that the NDoH can contact them.
There is also an option to use the tool via the Connect WhatsApp Hotline on 060 012 3456, by messaging the word “check” on the platform.
It should also be noted that the Department says all data from this tool will remain private, with it only being accessed by the NdOH and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) to map possible infections, future outbreaks or input into epidemiological models.
The HealthCheck tool will be available in all 11 South African official languages starting with English, isiZulu, isiXhosa, seSotho and Afrikaans.
The NDoH further recommends that it be used weekly by South Africans, with SMS prompts ready to be sent out routinely to everyone in the country.