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A 3D-printed Whatsapp logo is seen in front of coronavirus sign in this illustration (Photo: Reuters)
A 3D-printed Whatsapp logo is seen in front of coronavirus sign in this illustration (Photo: Reuters)

Centre launches WhatsApp chatbot to create awareness about coronavirus

  • One can access the chatbot by sending a WhatsApp message to the number 91 9013151515
  • Depending on the question, users will receive verified information in the form of a video, infographic or text

New Delhi: Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp on Saturday announced that it has partnered with the Ministry of Health and MyGov to launch a helpline number to raise awareness and answer questions about the Covid-19 pandemic.

With over 400 million users, India is WhatsApp's biggest market globally. The app is deeply penetrated in the country and is used by a majority of Indians.

Starting today, WhatsApp users across the country can reach out to the Ministry of Health on +91 9013151515 for credible information and to verify any uncertain information on precautionary measures or treatment practices.

To contact the helpline, users should save the WhatsApp number in their phone, and then start a chat by typing “Hi" and sending it to the number, which will prompt them to either type in a query or choose from a list of frequently asked questions. Depending on the question, users will receive verified information in the form of a video, infographic or text.

“In times of global crisis such as the Covid-19 pandemic, it is imperative that we rely only on factually correct and verified information. I commend Facebook for this great effort to synergise facts from credible sources and put it in the public domain through a popular messaging platform like WhatsApp. It shall definitely have a resounding positive impact on public health. When facts are incorrect, it leads to panic and takes the form of a vicious cycle. I appeal to people, transcending all borders, to use precautions that are being given out through official sources and to not get misled by myths that are circulated by mischievous elements," said Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare, Science & Technology, Earth Sciences in a statement.

WhatsApp said that the service will act as a great resource for people to have access to updated information on the pandemic.

"Access to credible sources of information is critical to battling coronavirus and is our top priority. We appreciate the opportunity to work with the Ministry of Health and MyGov on this initiative. We encourage users across the country to depend on verified sources for any information during this period" said Abhijit Bose, head of India for WhatsApp.

In addition to the MyGov helpline, users can reach out to the fact-checking community, whose details can be found on recently launched WhatsApp Coronavirus Information hub. People can also receive health alerts by messaging WHO on the Health Alert line available at whatsapp.com/coronavirus. This is another step of many that WhatsApp has taken during the last week to engage directly with various governments and global institutions around the world for people to request for information and address their queries on coronavirus over WhatsApp.

Ajit Mohan, vice-president and managing director of Facebook India, Ajit Mohan said that the technology can play a very vital role in India’s efforts against the outbreak.

"This unique collaboration with the government across multiple ministries is a strong beginning. And, as a company, we stand ready to help the country in any way we can to support the fight against the spread of the coronavirus," he noted.

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