DOH sets up COVID-19 emergency hotlines

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 18)— The Health Department has launched emergency hotlines for Filipinos seeking guidance and forwarding concerns about the coronavirus disease or COVID-19.

Those with queries can call 02-894-COVID (02-894-26843) and 1555, the department said in a statement. The contact lines will accommodate questions on possible infection, as well as assistance to the public who may have had exposure to confirmed COVID-19 cases or patients under investigation.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, however, appealed for patience as officials may only be able to accommodate "relevant and important calls" particularly on the first day of the contact lines' launch.

"We expect an influx of calls in the first few days of the launch of the call center. We ask for the public’s cooperation and patience to allow only relevant and important calls to go through In that way, we can provide timely medical assistance to those who really need it," Duque said of the hotlines set up in partnership with the Interior Department's National Emergency Hotline, PLDT Inc., and its wireless subsidiary Smart Communications Inc.

The 02-894-COVID line will be free of charge and can be accessed 24/7, DOH added.

Smart and PLDT subscribers may also reach 1555 hotline for free, while subscribers from other networks can access the 1555 hotline "once technical adjustments are completed."

The Philippines has recorded 187 confirmed positive cases of the infectious disease, including 14 fatalities. Globally, COVID-19 has infected over 197,000 individuals in 154 different countries including China, the epicenter of the disease's outbreak.

According to the World Health Organization, 80 percent of patients only experience “mild illness” and eventually recover. It added that some 14 percent experience severe illness while five percent were critically ill.

The disease is spread through small droplets from the nose or mouth when people infected with the virus cough or sneeze.

To prevent infection, authorities are urging people to practice regular hand washing, cover their mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and avoid close contact with those who show respiratory symptoms.