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Mobile phone coronavirus awareness to commence

Starting this week, Bougainvilleans will begin receiving short coronavirus awareness messages on their mobile phones and be able to call Bougainville COVID-19 Hotline number toll free.

Beginning Sunday, all Digicel subscribers will receive text messages explaining what coronavirus is, how to protect you and your loved ones, and where to get more information or report an illness.

Health Secretary, Clement Totavun said the Tok Pisin health messages were approved by the National Department of Health, and supported current face to face awareness being delivered by health workers, MPs and others across the region.

“We are using every channel available to us to make sure people are informed and confident about what each and every one of us must do to fight the spread of the coronavirus,” Mr Totavun said.

“This virus is totally new, so it can be confusing and scary. But the messages are simple and direct, and give people the facts and health measures to stay safe such as washing hands often, maintaining a distance of more than 1.5 metre between people and not touching your mouth, nose or eyes.”

At least 12 separate text messages will be sent over a four-week period, with most messages being sent in the first 10 days to ensure awareness is spread quickly.

The Health Secretary also announced that the Bougainville COVID-19 Hotline number 74460830 will also become a free call service.

“We understand that phone credits are a challenge for most our people so we are making the Bougainville Hotline number a toll free service so that everyone is able to call the hotline number without needing to buy phone credits.”

The Health Secretary said the Bougainville Hotline toll free service is expected to be activated next week and encouraged people to use these free information services to ask questions, and also report if they or a loved one is not feeling well.

“Our message to everyone is to check the messages, share them with your friends and family, and make sure people are spreading correct information, not the virus,” Mr Totavun said.

The Controller and Bougainville Health Response Team thanked all Bougainvilleans for their continuous cooperation, support and patience in this emergency period.

“These are testing times for us all, but being aware and confident about what we must do in the face of COVID-19 can help us through,” Mr Totavun said.

The SMS blasts and Bougainville Hotline toll free service are supported by the governments of Australia and New Zealand as part of a package of support to Bougainville’s COVID-19 emergency response.

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