Chinese turn to online doctor consultations amid coronavirus outbreak

SPOOKED by a sneeze or a cough, Chinese consumers are turning to online consultations in droves for advice about possible coronavirus symptoms – a boon for a fledgling industry that has struggled to win over customers.
Due to the epidemic, hundreds of millions of Chinese are stuck at home due to quarantine restrictions imposed by authorities or companies. Even if not under quarantine, many are too worried to venture for long outside or to visit a hospital for other ailments as they fear they might catch the highly contagious virus.
The surge of inquiries has also been driven by healthcare platforms offering some services for free amid the epidemic.
JD Health, an arm of JD.com Inc (JD.O), has seen its daily volume of respiratory-related online consultations jump by nine times while mental-health consultations have grown five to seven times, according to Xiao Jianbo, the company’s general manager of online healthcare.
“Most of the requests I’ve had between the end of January and mid-February were about the coronavirus,” said Liu Yafeng, a doctor who works fulltime for JD Health. “People are so worried even just by a sneeze.”
Such is the state of fretfulness that “Always thinking I’ve been infected by the virus” has become a trending topic with more than 570 million views on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblogging platform.
Liu said he worked around 12 hours per day from end January to mid-February, but in a positive sign that panic about the epidemic is receding, he is now working eight hours a day.
REUTERS