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Indian Church group launches global virus-counseling

The online platform offers counseling to people isolated or quarantined following the Covid-19 virus infection

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Updated: February 28, 2020 01:47 PM GMT
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Indian Church group launches global virus-counseling

A roadside barber wearing a protective face mask amid fears of the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus gives a haircut to a customer in Hanoi on February 28, 2020. (Photo: Manan Vatsyayana/AFP)

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With the Covid-19 virus fast spreading across the world, a Catholic organization in India has launched an online platform to counsel people infected with the deadly virus that has no known medical cure.

The Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI) on Feb. 26 launched the portal—coronacare.life—in Hyderabad, capital of Andhra Pradesh state in southern India, where the organization is based.

“Fear and loneliness are the worst enemies of humans in a moment of crisis of this sort. If we have a way to overcome fear and loneliness, we would most likely overcome crises. This is the rationale to set up the platform,” said Father Mathew Abraham, CHAI director.

Father George Kannanthanam, deputy secretary of CHAI, said, “when a person is put in isolation or quarantined, his frustration and agony will be beyond imagination, especially when he knows that many have already died.” 

The virus has spread to over 50 nations, killing some 2,800 people and infected some 82,000 as of Feb. 28, after it was first reported in Wuhan city in central China in December.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also declared it a global health emergency.

The online platform aims to offer constant “counseling to boost courage and confidence of the infected,” said Father Kannanthanam.

The open web platform allows anyone to log in the site for “live chats, audio, and video calls, apart from communicating through e-mails,” the priest told UCA News Feb. 28.

The 75-year-old organization has a team of 30 volunteers, half of them are medical professionals--mostly Catholic nuns. They also have psychologists and social workers speaking foreign languages, the priest said.

The volunteers speak Chinese, Spanish, French, Italian, German and English, besides Indian languages such as Tamil and Bengali.

Two days after the site was launched, it received 237 calls and 62 chat messages, “indicating that those in isolation are really in need of talking to people.” 

Increasing anxiety 

A recent Chinese Psychology Society survey found that 42.6 percent of 18,000 Chinese citizens tested positive for having anxiety related to the coronavirus epidemic, media reports said.

Researchers have found that 16.6 percent of individuals may be dealing with moderate to severe depression.

On Chinese social media platform Weibo, a hashtag #howtodealwithfeelingveryanxiousathome was trending with more than 290 million views.

Misinformation and online fake news are also stoking fears and anxiety among the general public.

In China alone, there are at least 300 round-the-clock mental health support hotlines run by university psychology departments, counseling services, and NGOs.

India had reported only three cases, all students returning from China to the southern state of Kerala. All three recovered.

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