ISLAMABAD                -             In an online press briefing on Tuesday, Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on National Health Services (NHS) Dr. Zafar Mirza confirmed another 140 coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and said that the number of suspected cases in the country has crossed 15,000.

He also said that four more people lost their lives in a day while 58 have recovered.  Dr. Mirza said that 861 COVID-19 patients are admitted in hospitals and are being treated. Amongst them 12 are said to be critical.

He said that the rest of the patients admitted have mild or moderate symptoms. SAPM on NHS also said that the number of persons in different quarantine centers has also surged to 8606 and 20 percent of them have been tested positive.

About the COVID-9 testing capacity of the country he said that government will be capable of testing 100,000 persons till April 15. After that it will also become self-sufficient in making the kits which will also increase its testing capacity.

Dr Zafar Mirza strongly discouraged the negative social stigma and ostracization of people who have tested positive for the virus. He said society must socially accept these patients.

“Prime Minister (PM) himself has expressed disappointment over the behavior of criminalizing people being tested positive with COVID-19,” he said.

Dr. Zafar Mirza said that such behavior will lead to addition in the cases instead of reduction in them. “People will become afraid and avoid presenting themselves for the test which will cause damage to the preventive measures.”

He asked departments and people to adopt a more positive behavior for people being tested for COVID-19.

Meanwhile the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) also launched the Pakistan Government Corona Helpline on WhatsApp. The new service, which is free-to-use, provides a central source of accurate, trustworthy and up-to-date information about Coronavirus (COVID-19) for everyone in Pakistan.

A statement issued by the ministry said that the government coronavirus WhatsApp Helpline is an automated ‘chatbot’ service which will allow citizens to get answers to the most common questions about coronavirus from the Ministry of Health 24 hours a day. The service will be available in English, Urdu, Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Baluchi, Kashmiri and will provide information on topics such as coronavirus prevention and symptoms, the latest number of cases, and other trustworthy health information.

To use the free Pakistan Government Corona Helpline on WhatsApp, simply save the number +92-300- 1111166 in your phone contacts and then text any word in a WhatsApp message to get started. A set of menu options is then presented which the user can choose from and then be sent relevant guidance from the Ministry of Health for further information.

SAPM on NHS Dr. Zafar Mirza said “During this challenging time it is vitally important that people get accurate, timely and official answers to questions they have about COVID-19 and its impact on their families and communities.  We encourage anyone with questions or concerns to use the coronavirus hotline on WhatsApp, and to make sure that they only trust health advice from official sources, such as this service.  We thank WhatsApp and Facebook for their prompt support and assistance in bringing this service to Pakistan”

Matt Idema, COO of WhatsApp commented: “At difficult times like these, people use WhatsApp more than ever to connect with and support their friends, family and communities. We are pleased to be able to provide the Pakistan Ministry of National Health Services with the communications tools to help them respond to citizens’ questions about the virus with reliable, timely health advice, in order to keep people safe.”

A number of Health Ministries around the world are already running Coronavirus health information lines on WhatsApp, including the World Health Organization, South Africa’s Department of Health, Australia, Brazil, and KOMINFO in Indonesia, with more services expected to launch in the coming days and weeks.