Yesterday’s launch of the GOV.UK Coronavirus Information Service on WhatsApp means people can get “official, trustworthy and timely information and advice about coronavirus”, according to the Government’s announcement.
Officials hope the new comms tool will help combat the spread of coronavirus misinformation and ensure people stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.
The automated ‘chatbot’ service will enable people to get answers to commonly asked questions and provide information on subjects such as coronavirus prevention and symptoms, the latest number of cases in the UK, advice on staying at home, travel advice, and mythbusting.
The government will be able to send messages via the service, which people can join by adding 07860 064422 in their phone contacts and sending the word ‘hi’ in a WhatsApp message to get started.
Users can then choose from various options and be sent relevant guidance from GOV.UK pages, as well as links to further information.
Professor Yvonne Doyle, medical director of 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.”
And Matt Idema, chief operating officer at WhatsApp, commented: “At difficult times like these, people are using WhatsApp more than ever to connect with and support their friends, family and communities.”
He added: “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.”
The new WhatsApp service comes days after the Government texted millions of people across the UK to inform them of the lockdown announced by the Prime Minister on Monday.