Unless you’ve been hiding in a monastery without WiFi the last six months, you know that the world is a very different place than it was in 2019. And 2020 was supposed to be everyone’s good year. No matter, part of this new situation is having to cope with new things — something South Africa’s busy getting a handle on. SA’s Department of Health has launched a new SMS and WhatsApp service aimed at making info around COVID-19 a little easier to manage.
What’s it do?
COVIDConnect is a fairly simple contact tracing system for South African users. It’ll be used to send COVID test results to South Africans, with those receiving negative results simply getting their results and calling it a day. Those who test positive for the virus, whether they’re informed via WhatsApp or SMS, will be prompted to enter information about the people they’ve had contact with. The system will notify those who potentially have COVID that testing is required. Of course, this relies heavily on those tested having very good memories and submitting accurate info.
Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize said “The digital system that the Department of Health is currently using, called COVIDConnect, brings an easy-to-use self-service portal to your cellular phone. It is freely accessible through WhatsApp and SMS. What also makes it more accessible is that it does not require a user to have a smartphone but it works on any mobile phone.”
He continued, “This system enhances the physical effort of contact tracking and tracing which is done by our community health workers and volunteers. It automates this traditional process and continuously engages with the affected user.”
How you can access it
If you’re keen on getting your COVID info (including testing data) direct from the Department of Health, you can add COVIDConnect on WhatsApp using the following number: 0600123456. Once that’s done, just send the word ‘hello’ and you’re off. The Department of Health is at pains to point out that an accurate physical address, phone number and date of birth are required when being tested in order for this to work.
If you’re not a smartphone user (unlikely, since you’re reading Stuff, but maybe you know somebody who hasn’t made the jump), then sending the following code using the phone’s keypad: *134*832#.
Lastly, if you’ve been tested for COVID-19, you can access your results directly from the government’s LetsTalk service on WhatsApp, using this number: 0820468553. Once that’s done, send the word ‘Results’ and follow the on-screen directions.