WhatsApp update could be the most important ever in coronavirus pandemic
The UK Government has enlisted the help of the world’s most popular chat app, WhatsApp. The Facebook-owned messaging service now plays host to a brand-new chatbot designed to answer any questions, concerns or queries that you have about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic gripping the UK, Europe and the rest of the globe.
The automated service is designed to provide trusted information and the most up-to-date guidance on the Government website. The service can help if you’re looking for information on topics such as coronavirus prevention and symptoms, the latest number of cases in the UK, advice on staying at home, travel advice and myth-busting.
The UK Government sees this approved chatbot as a way to help combat the spread of coronavirus misinformation in the UK, which has been rampant since the start of the outbreak – with a number of false cures, prevention methods and at-home tests to see if you have the disease being circulated on social media and messaging services.
Not only that, but the Government will use its new WhatsApp chat service to send out messages with updated advice on the public health crisis tearing through the country right now.
When Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced strict social distancing policies earlier this week – banning people from leaving their homes except for a handful of pre-approved reasons, he said the restrictive measures would be reviewed in three weeks time. When a decision is made whether to continue these disruptive measures to try to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the new advice is likely to be pushed out through communication channels like the Government chatbot.
A few days ago, the Government enlisted the help of UK cellular networks to deliver a text message to all UK mobile numbers telling them to stay inside their homes for the foreseeable future. Downing Street is also holding daily press conferences about the fight against coronavirus, as well as running television adverts and messages on social networks, including Twitter, Facebook and the Apple App Store.
The WhatsApp chatbot is the latest attempt to reach people on the platforms they use the most.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has already infected more than 500,000 people worldwide and resulted in tens of thousands of deaths. China’s Wuhan District, Italy, Spain and New York City appear to be the hardest hit by the respiratory virus to date.
To talk to the Government chatbot about the latest advice from health officials, add the number 07860 064 422 (or+447860 064 422 if you’re not currently in the UK) to your contacts. Then send the number a message with a simple “hi”.
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According to WhatsApp, “a set of menu options is then presented which the user can choose from and then be sent relevant guidance from GOV.UK pages as well as links to GOV.UK for further information.”
WhatsApp Chief Operating Officer Matt Idema said: “At difficult times like these, people are using WhatsApp more than ever to connect with and support their friends, family and communities. We are pleased to be able to provide the UK Government with the communications tools to help them answer the public’s questions about the virus with reliable, timely health advice, in order to keep people safe.”
Prof Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director for Public Health England, added: “This service will help us ensure the public has a trusted source for the right information about coronavirus, updated with the latest public health guidance and providing assurance that they are not misled by any of the false information circulating.”
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