To keep people up to date about official information as the coronavirus pandemic spreads, the World Health Organisation has created a Health Alert on WhatsApp. The free service has been “designed to answer questions from the public about Coronavirus, and to give prompt, reliable and official information 24 hours a day, worldwide”. The service will also help government decision-makers by providing the latest numbers and situation reports.
How does WHO health alert on WhatsApp work?
To get in touch with WHO Health Alert, save the number +41 79 893 1892 in your phone contacts. Then simply text the word ‘Hi’ to the number to get started. The service responds to a series of prompts and will be updated daily with the latest information.
WhatsApp had earlier created a coronavirus information hub on the app. The homepage of this (whatsapp.com/coronavirus) will also now have the link to open up a chat with the WHO Health Alert if you have WhatsApp installed.
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Announcing the service, Facebook found Mark Zuckerberg said in a post: “So many people wanted this service that even before we could announce it, people shared the link around WhatsApp and almost half a million people had already signed up.”
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO said digital technology gives an unprecedented opportunity for “vital health information to go viral and spread faster than the pandemic, helping us save lives and protect the vulnerable”.
The WHO Health Alert will have official information on how to protect yourself from infection, travel advice, and will also debunk Coronavirus myths. The service is initially launching in English but will be available in all six United Nations languages — English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish — within the coming weeks.
The WHO Health Alert follows many other government helplines on WhatsApp, including the Singapore Government, The Israel Ministry of Health, the South Africa Department of Health, and KOMINFO Indonesia. Other countries are expected to launch services soon.
WhatsApp has also announced a $1M grant to the International Fact-Checking Network to support fact-checking for the #CoronaVirusFacts Alliance, to report on coronavirus rumours circulating via messages.
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