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UK government launches WhatsApp chatbot to provide advice on coronavirus

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UK government launches WhatsApp chatbot to provide advice on coronavirus

The UK Government has launched a WhatsApp chatbot to provide the public with information and advice on the coronavirus.

Citizens can access the service by adding the number 07860 064 422 to their phone contacts and sending a WhatsApp text message reading ‘hi’.

The chatbot then replies with a list of topics about which citizens can obtain the latest advice and information. These are numbered from 1-9, and guidance can be accessed by sending a message composed of the corresponding number.

The nine options are, in order: what is coronavirus?; prevention; symptoms; stay at home; travel; latest numbers; mythbusters; share; and more information.

Some of these sections have sub-categories which can also be accessed via numerical messages. Users can return to the main menu at any point by replying with the word ‘menu’.

Users are told that all messages sent to the service “will not be read by a person [and] you cannot call this number”.

In addition to providing advice, the government said that the chatbot will allow it “to send messages to all opted-in users, if required”. 

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.”

WhatsApp chief operating officer Matt Idema added: “At difficult times like these, people are using WhatsApp more than ever to connect with and support their friends, family and communities. 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.”

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