Several cities in the world, including in India, are under lockdown. This past week, tech giants, governments and global health agencies took further steps to slow down the spread of Coronavirus. Some of them include a new Google Search experience, Microsoft’s Healthcare bot, launch of WhatsApp helpline number by WHO, and a WhatsApp number by the Indian government to make people aware about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Keeping in mind the people’s expanding need for information, Google has introduced a more comprehensive experience for COVID-19 in Search that will provide access to authoritative information from health authorities alongside new data and visualisations. The new format of disseminating information is organised in such a way that people can easily navigate information and resources.
The new format has links to helpful resources from national and local health authorities, and a carousel of Twitter accounts from local civic organisations and health authorities from where the latest local guidance is shared. ‘We’ve also introduced a feature to surface some of the most common questions about the pandemic, with relevant snippets sourced from the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),’ Google said.
Just like Microsoft, Google has also added modules with statistics and a map showing COVID-19 prevalence in countries around the world. The new experience on Search will roll out in the coming days in English in the US, and will be expanded to other languages and countries soon.
Microsoft is offering its Healthcare Bot service powered by Microsoft Azure to organisations that are still functional. These bots can be stationed at the entraces of the buildings to help screen patients for potential infection and care. The bot can quickly assess the symptoms and risk factors for people worried about infection, provide information and suggest a next course of action. The bot, which utilises Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot service, will initially be available in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced its Health Alert on WhatsApp. The new service is free to use, and has been designed to answer questions from the public about Coronavirus, and to give prompt, reliable and official information 24 hours a day, worldwide. Users can text ‘Hi’ on the number +41 79 893 1892 in a WhatsApp message to get started.
The global health agency will provide official information on topics such as how to protect yourself from infection, travel advice, and debunking Coronavirus myths. The service is initially launching in English but will be available in all six United Nations languages within the coming weeks (English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish.)
Following the footsteps of the WHO, the Ministry of Health and MyGov, along with WhatsApp, have launched a helpline number to raise awareness and answer questions about the COVID-19 pandemic. Launched for people in India, the number (+91 9013151515 ) allows people to reach out to the Ministry of Health for credible information and to verify any uncertain information on precautionary measures or treatment practices.
‘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,’ Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare, Science & Technology, Earth Sciences, said in a statement.
To start the chat, people can type ‘Hi’ and send 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 addition to the MyGov helpline, users can reach out to the fact-checking community from WhatsApp Coronavirus Information hub.