The amount of misinformation around novel coronavirus and Covid-19 is staggering and presents a real danger both to the health of individuals and the wider community. To combat this threat, the UK Government has launched a WhatsApp bot to provide authoritative information on the virus.
The new free service aims to provide official, trustworthy and timely information about coronavirus (Covid-19) and reduce the burden on the National Health Service (NHS) and other under-pressure resources.
To engage with the bot, its phone number is 07860 064422 in the UK and connections are accepted from outside the country on +44 7860 064422.
Using the Covid-19 Bot is a little like using an interactive phone system: it’s respond “1 for this, 2 for that”.
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 Bot doesn’t check symptoms or provide diagnoses – it’s purely for information – but it does provide guidance on what to do if you think you have Covid-19, although the guidance information is UK-centric.
Pressing “7” offers a “mythbusters” section from the World Health Organisation that debunks many of the rumours around Covid-19. Some of the myths are pretty farfetched but now there’s an official source to refute them.
The ubiquity of WhatsApp makes it a great tool for this kind of information dissemination but a downside of WhatsApp is that it requires word of mouth to pass the number on – there’s no central index. So get the word out.