Facebook-owned Inline messaging platform WhatsApp and India’s Ministry of Health (MoH) have joined hands to launch a helpline number to raise awareness about the Covid-19 pandemic, now formally known as SARS-CoV-2.
WhatsApp has over 400 million users across India. The app is deeply penetrated in the country and therefore, it is the perfect means of communication and mode to disperse news or information about the pandemic.
The helpline number, +91 9013151515, came into effect from Saturday and can be used to get credible information and also to verify any information on precautionary measures or treatment practices.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted earlier about the service saying, “Sharing correct information, avoiding incorrect panic.
Here is an effort by WhatsApp and @mygovindia to ensure you receive accurate and verified information on Coronavirus.”
Sharing correct information, avoiding incorrect panic.
Here is an effort by WhatsApp and @mygovindia to ensure you receive accurate and verified information on Coronavirus.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 21, 2020
In order to begin conversation or to get help, users need send ‘Hi’ to the number. This will prompt them to either type in a query or choose from a list of frequently asked queries. Depending on the query, users will get verified and credible information in the form of 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 be beneficial for the masses.
“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.
Earlier this week, a similar WhatsApp service was enacted by WHO, on which people can send ‘Hi’ to its Health Alert Line available on WhatsApp.com/coronavirus.
This service also aims to disseminate credible information among the masses so that the pandemic could be contained.