With fake news on Coronavirus spreading thick and fast, the Karnataka government decided to also battle the same with technology. A group of dedicated ‘Corona Warriors’, volunteers and officials from various departments are working round the clock to disseminate the right information regarding the symptoms and treatment of COVID-19, lockdown and the measures taken by the government.
Situated in the information department building, the ‘war room’ has been abuzz with activity as people have been writing to them on various digital platforms with queries. A panel of experts handles questions in their respective fields to ensure that the is an immediate response.
The experts' panel includes doctors, IT professionals, logistics experts, IPS officers, officials from the Karnataka government’s labour and food & civil supplies department along with volunteers from Red Cross.
‘People call us regarding various symptoms like sore throat, mild fever and cold and we advise them to first treat the issues with basic medication like paracetamol or just salt water gargling sometimes. If the symptoms persist, we then ask them to call their local doctors and only if after all this does not help, we tell them to visit clinics,’ said Dr Supreeth Gowda who has been addressing medical questions.
Their efforts will reduce the burden on the Coronavirus exclusive hospitals set up by the Karnataka government as many people, unsure of what the symptoms mean, rush to the hospitals.
Their presence is not just on Twitter but even other less public tools like Telegram. ‘As Telegram allows us to have the maximum people in groups, we have started multiple groups some of which have over 20,000 people and at any point over 2,000 people are online’, says Nitin Shanbagh, an IT expert who is volunteering.
The helpline constantly updates citizens about the government orders passed and also helps citizens source essentials like water, groceries and even cooked food. They are also providing food packages, cooked and parceled in wedding halls that have been converted into cooking stations.
People ask the volunteers regarding false information being circulated, either regarding the virus or about the government’s measures. The volunteers immediately verify the information and help them deal with the crisis better.
Citizens facing trouble commuting or establishing contact with family and friends stuck far away can reach out to the police officers attached with the helpline who can assist them within minutes with their large network of police personnel, civil defence volunteers and quick response teams.