WhatsApp

UK Government launches Coronavirus ChatBot on WhatsApp

WhatsApp ‘coronavirus chatbot’ launched by UK government

The UK Government has teamed up with WhatsApp to provide a ‘coronavirus chatbot’ to offer official guidance to the British public for free. 

This will help combat the spread of coronavirus misinformation in the UK, as well as helping ensure people stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.

The Coronavirus Information Service is an automated ‘chatbot’ service which will allow the British public to get answers to the most common questions about coronavirus direct from government.

The service will provide 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 service will also allow the government to send messages to all opted-in users if required.

Prof Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director, Public Health England, said:

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.

The importance of valid UK-wide communications has never been more acute amid the coronavirus crisis. Unlike many countries, Britain does not have an emergency messaging or SMS system that allows the Government to reach out to citizens in times of crisis.

On Tuesday, the Government sent out a mass text message to the whole British public for the first time, warning them to stay at home and sending out a link to the new rules on social distancing. The Government had to ask networks to send out this message as it does not have a centralised emergency alert system to do so.

WhatsApp should provide a quicker route for sending updates quickly about coronavirus, as well as quashing rumours and panic. 

Matt Idema, Chief Operating Officer, WhatsApp, added:

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.

How To Access UK Government WhatsApp ChatBot

  1. Within WhatsApp, tap the ‘New Chat‘ icon in the top right-hand corner of the app.
  2. Select ‘New Contact’
  3. Add 07860064422 into the ‘Mobile’ field.
  4. You can choose to add a contact name if you wish, but it’s not essential.
  5. Press save.
  6. Text the word ‘hi‘ to the number.

Users will then be greeted with the following message:

GOV.UK coronavirus information service.

Last updated 26 MARCH 2020

You can use this service to get information about coronavirus (COVID-19) from GOV.UK.

For the latest guidance, visit: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Any messages you send will not be read by a person. You cannot call this number.

This is not a WhatsApp group, you will not receive spam messages.

Health information

This service cannot check your symptoms or provide a diagnosis.

For health information, visit the NHS website:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

Topics Reply with a number from 1 to 9 to find out more about the following topics: 1. What is coronavirus? 2. Prevention 3. Symptoms 4. Stay at home 5. Travel 6. Latest numbers 7. Mythbusters 8. Share 9. More information

Users can respond with any of the above numbers to get more information about the specified topic, for example, information about the disease, how to prevent the spread, the symptoms, restrictions on staying at home and travel and more.

The World Health Organisation is launching a similar WhatsApp chatbot in a bid to spread health information about coronavirus after successful trials in South Africa.

WhatsApp has also launched a website to help combat misinformation surrounding the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.  he ‘WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub’ sees the company partner with the WHO and UNICEF to provide reliable information to users.

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