The NHS 111 service has responded to more than 1.7 million people who say they have developed coronavirus (COVID-19) in the last 15 days, according to new figures. 

Nearly 1.5 million have participated in online assessments between March 18 and 31, while 243,543 have been in touch via the phonelines, NHS Digital said.

However, the numbers do not necessarily relate to individuals because it is thought people may have sought advice via different channels and they are not based on confirmed cases of the virus.

At the moment, the Department of Health has said there are 29,474 people who have tested positive for the virus and in England more than 2,000 NHS front-line staff have developed the condition. 

The news comes as the NHS announced a new text message service, which means people with suspected COVID-19 who are at home will receive daily check-ins from the health service. 

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We are doing everything we can to protect the health of the nation during this outbreak, including supporting our fantastic NHS and social care workforce who are looking after people who have symptoms or are self-isolating.

“I know all too well that experiencing symptoms can be worrying, but for those living on their own it will be even more so. Alongside other measures, this new daily text service will reassure our most vulnerable that they are not alone, and also to help them manage their symptoms.

“Technology, combined with our heroic staff on the frontline, have played a huge role in battling this virus and I encourage everyone to use this new service.”

Dr Simon Eccles, Deputy Chief Executive, NHSX said: “This new service is vitally important to help the NHS to understand the impact of the virus on patients and its progression and spread across the country.”

People will start receiving the messages once they have contacted NHS 111 and had their symptoms and personal details recorded. 

The daily text messages will be used to ensure those who are self-isolating get the help they need. 

Professor Jonathan Benger, Chief Medical Officer at NHS Digital, said: “Across the country, people are playing their part in the battle to save lives and stop the spread of coronavirus by doing the right thing and staying home if they have got symptoms.

“However we know that for many this will be difficult. This new service will help people to get the encouragement, advice and support that they need.”

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