Google launches 'SOS Alert' for coronavirus in search results

Google launches ‘SOS Alert’ for coronavirus in search results to provide users with tips and information from the World Health Organisation on how to stay safe

  • Google partners with WHO to make coronavirus information easily accessible
  • SOS Alert prioritises WHO info on the virus when users search ‘coronavirus’
  • The feature, launched in 2017, gives uses reputable info during emergencies  

Google has teamed up with the World Health Organisation to launch an SOS Alert dedicated to the coronavirus.

The search engine will prioritise information on the virus from the WHO, including safety tips and WHO Twitter updates on the spread of the virus and how to stay safe.

Anyone searching for information on the coronavirus will be shown an SOS Alert box with resources from WHO at the top of the results page.

Google’s SOS Alert prioritises trusted sources of information fast to help provide people with critical information about a public emergency.

Google users will know alert is active because of the SOS Alert header that appears at the top of the page.

Users can also click the arrow-shaped sharing icon at the top of the SOS Alert to share a coronavirus Google search link to Facebook, Twitter or in an email.


SOS Alerts brings key information as updates.

These include information about official alerts, tweets and phrases in the local language.

It will let people know which roads are closed, traffic jams and places they can find refuge.

Users who are close to the affected area will get notifications.

People not in the area who want information about the crisis can search for the SOS Alert which provides a timely overview of the situation.

They can simply type ‘coronavirus’ in the search engine and be presented with a ‘Help and information’ box with WHO links, and another ‘Safety tips’ box for how to prevent the virus spreading.

The WHO declared the coronavirus virus a global health emergency on Thursday.

The worldwide death toll of the virus has reached 213, with the first two UK cases confirmed on Friday.

‘Today we launched an SOS Alert with WHO to make resources about coronavirus easily accessible,’ Google tweeted on Thursday.

‘We do these regularly for crisis events around the world where public safety might be at risk.’

SOS Alerts aim to make emergency information more accessible to users during a natural or human-caused crisis.

The SOS Alert feature is prioritising sources from the WHO, which declared the virus a global health emergency on Thursday

The SOS Alert feature is prioritising sources from the WHO, which declared the virus a global health emergency on Thursday

The feature was launched back in 2017 as a way to help save lives in emergencies, such as fires, floods or terrorist situations.

SOS Alerts, which is available in both Search and Maps, helps users find locations, top stories and local information from authorities.

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It also send notifications to smartphones depending on how close the user is to the incident.

‘Our aim is to provide the most relevant, credible, actionable information during a crisis,’ the tech giant says.

‘During a crisis, people need real-time information.

‘Whether they’re experiencing an issue on the ground or trying to understand the situation from afar, we want our products to give people quick access to important information – such as what is going on and where it is happening – to help them stay safe and informed.’

Google also announced on Thursday that it had donated $250,000 to the Chinese Red Cross to support humanitarian efforts in the wake of the outbreak.

On Thursday, Facebook announced that it would be removing fake information on the virus and promoting legitimate sources of information about the outbreak’s progress, including the WHO.

The social media giant said its global network of third-party fact-checkers are reviewing content and ‘debunking false claims’ related to the outbreak.

Twitter users, meanwhile, will see a link to the Department of Health and Social Care website containing the latest information and advice about the emergency, when they search ‘coronavirus’. 

More than 9,800 have been infected with the Wuhan coronavirus in at least 21 countries and regions as of Friday morning. 




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