South Africa’s National Department of Health (NDoH) has confirmed that over 1 million South Africans have already used their COVID-19 digital self-assessment tool called HealthCheck.
The HealthCheck self-assessment tool allows for early detection, mapping and management of COVID-19 cases using USSD and the official COVID-19 WhatsApp Service (COVID-19 CONNECT).
The tool comes at a crucial moment in the South African government’s COVID-19 response – when certain aspects of the country’s lockdown have been relaxed and more responsibility is being placed on individuals to ensure their own health when going back to work or school and engaging in outdoor activity and other areas of public life.
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. Actions could include remote medical advice or a suggestion to visit a nearby healthcare facility.
HealthCheck also issues receipts after a user completes their pre-screening self-assessment, providing them with an endorsed declaration of their risk level with a validity period of 24 hours. The digital receipts self-assessment result will see individuals fall into low risk (green), medium risk (orange) or high-risk (red) categories.
All users will get a receipt and those who get a low-risk result will be able to use the digital certificate for a period of 24 hours from being issued when entering spaces of public engagement. Based on guidelines provided by the NDoH, should the results of the self-check require further action, users will be guided to self-isolate, test or get emergency care.
Importantly, all data from HealthCheck will remain private and secure and will only be used by the NDoH and NICD to map possible infections or future outbreaks and input into epidemiological models to inform decision making on the national response to COVID-19.
HealthCheck is available on USSD for those without access to airtime or Internet, with network operators MTN, Telkom and Vodacom having made access to the USSD line free.
The USSD is available by dialling *134*832# where people are 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 category, symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat), exposure to infected persons and acceptance of terms and conditions and confirmation that the NDoH can contact them.
The risk-assessment screening tool has also been added to the list of menu items on the NDoH’s COVID-19 Connect WhatsApp Helpline. The helpline, which has had over 6.2 million users since its launch on 18 March, is activated by messaging ‘hi’ to 0600123456.
The availability of HealthCheck on both platforms means that NICD and NDoH guidelines on self-isolation, testing or whether users should seek medical care will reach many more people during the current COVID-19 pandemic. It will also play an important role in taking the pressure off the country’s healthcare facilities whilst they are dealing with critical care of COVID-19 patients.