The number of calls to 111 from people in Essex has rocketed due to coronavirus fears.
There were 20,978 calls to NHS 111 from the Essex and Suffolk area in the week ending March 1.
That was up 20 per cent compared to the week before, when there were 17,513 calls to the advice line.
It is also up by 31 per cent from 16,026 calls in the same week last year.
The massive jump in demand means more callers are having to wait more than a minute to speak to an advisor.
Last week, 44 per cent of calls from patients served by south and mid Essex, north east Essex and Suffolk and west Essex , were answered within 60 seconds.
That was down from 72 per cent the week before and 76 per cent in the same week last year.
There was also a big rise in the number of calls being abandoned after at least 30 seconds of waiting – up from 435 in the week to February 23, to 1,854 in the week ending March 1.
Overall, NHS 111 answered 17,247 calls last week in the area, up from 16,170 a week before.
An NHS spokesperson said: “NHS staff are working round the clock to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, with 111 services dealing with over 120,000 more calls than the same week last year.
“That’s why we’re already recruiting 500 additional initial call responders to answer up to 20,000 more 111 calls every day, with further staffing increases in train, providing a new online service which can provide advice at the touch of a button, and boosting the availability of clinical advice for those who need it.”
By Tuesday afternoon this week, nine people from Essex and its surrounding areas were diagnosed with coronavirus.
A region-by-region chart revealed that there are five cases in areas governed by Essex County Council and one in Southend.
Another three cases very close to Essex were confirmed by The Department of Health and Social Care on Monday.
Two cases in Havering and another in Waltham Forest were also announced.
Among the cases is a patient who visited Baddow Village Surgery, in Great Baddow, at the end of February who has now tested positive for the virus.
The surgery, on Longmead Avenue, only found out about the confirmed case on Monday.
A “small group” of teachers from Westcliff High School for Boys were asked to self-isolate on Monday after the grandparent of a student tested positive for the virus.
The school revealed that the teachers had all come in contact with the grandparent during a visit last week.