Update on April 1: The Indian government’s WhatsApp chatbot which offers information about the COVID-19 situation in the country has been updated to now the number of people affected by the virus. We can confirm that this update was at least present on March 26. The updated bot also provides latest news related to coronavirus, including how different sectors are responding to it. It also has an option to fact check some common misconceptions about the virus, including how it spreads and if there is a vaccine to cure the virus (which there isn’t yet). It also allows people from outside India to connect with the External Affairs Ministry, and get help with Visa related queries.
Earlier on March 20: The Indian government and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have created WhatsApp chatbots to provide real-time information about the COVID-19 pandemic, potentially to tackle misinformation about the pandemic that’s currently abundant on social media platforms. This comes after it was reported that the Karnataka government and Mumbai Police will track phones of people placed under quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Indian government’s chatbot, called MyGov Corona Helpdesk, on WhatsApp can be joined by adding +919013151515 to your contacts. It offers an emergency helpline, along with information on COVID-19, which also includes professional advice by AIIMS director Randeep Guleria in 5 YouTube videos.
- PIB is also running a fact-checker on WhatsApp: Apart from this, Indian users of WhatsApp can also send potential misinformation about COVID-19 only in relation to central government bodies/institutions to PIB (on their WhatsApp number +918799711259).
- Google is currently running the “DO THE FIVE” campaign in India, which offers the 5 basic ways to stop coronavirus, and also links out to the Health Ministry’s website with more information on the pandemic.
The WHO WhatsApp chatbot can be joined by using the number +41798931892 to get the latest information and guidance on COVID-19 from WHO. It provides information such as the latest number of COVID-19 cases around the world, tips to protect yourself, and myth-busters among other things.
- The myth-buster section tries to address some of the most common misinformation about the pandemic, including the age of people that can be affected from it, and that the virus can transmit even in hot weather, among other things.
- The section on latest numbers, at the time of writing the story, shows data from March 18.
*Update on April 1: The story was updated with details of the new features added to Indian government’s WhatsApp chatbot. Original story appeared on March 20.