Did you know that you can get updates about COVID-19 on WhatsApp? During the Coronavirus pandemic, the app has been making the necessary social distancing more bearable by connecting both individuals and communities. Recently, several countries and organizations launched WhatsApp messaging services, in an effort to keep the general population informed and provide reliable data. This article shows you how to get updates about COVID-19 on WhatsApp from several sources:
NOTE: This tutorial illustrates how English speakers can use WhatsApp to get official info on COVID-19 from the World Health Organization and the Governments of the UK, India, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Singapore. Keep in mind that you first need to install WhatsApp from the Google Play Store on Android smartphones or get it from the App Store, if you're an iPhone or iPad owner.
Get worldwide Coronavirus updates using WHO's Health Alert
The World Health Organization has been among the first to launch a dedicated messaging service that offers the latest news and info on COVID-19. Designed to answer questions from the public, the WHO Health Alert provides reliable and official information worldwide, 24 hours a day. It is currently available in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Hindi and Arabic, with WhatsApp planning to add more languages in the future. The service is free and acts like a chatbot, letting you choose the data you want to see by inserting a number. To use WHO Health Alert in English, access this link from your Android smartphone or iPhone, and then press the Send button.
You should be redirected to the WhatsApp app, where a chat window is automatically opened for you. Send "hi" on the channel to see all the available options.
For those using WhatsApp on PC, you can access the link to the English version of Health Alert with no problems as long as you have WhatsApp Desktop installed on your device. If you're using WhatsApp Web, the only browser you can use to access a chatbot from your PC is Microsoft Edge. First, press Send on the first page that lets you "Share on WhatsApp."
TIP: As you may have noticed from the screenshots, the number for the chatbot is not always the same (most probably to avoid server overload), but it is always shown as World Health Organization in WhatsApp. Alternatively, you can also add any of the numbers in our screenshots to your phone contacts and message them accordingly to receive the relevant data about COVID-19.
Microsoft Edge then gives you the option to "use WhatsApp Web." Click or tap on it to continue, and WhatsApp Web opens in a new tab, where you get the option to message a chatbot.
To use Health Alert in one of the other languages available, you can check out its page on WHO's website, access the appropriate link, and say "hi" in that language. For now, you can access a chatbot for French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Hindi and Arabic, but the page should be updated to include more languages as soon as they become available.
Get COVID-19 updates for the UK with GOV.UK Coronavirus Information Service
The UK Government launched a GOV.UK Coronavirus Information Service on WhatsApp. Just like WHO's Health Alert, it is an automated chatbot that provides the data you are requesting based on your inputs. The GOV.UK service is free, and the British public can use it at any time to access official advice and info about the COVID-19 pandemic, thus helping with the combat against the recent wave of misinformation in the UK. On top of relevant guidance from the Government, it also provides useful links towards pertinent GOV UK and NHS pages.
To use the service, add the number 07860 064 422 to your phone contacts, and then send it a WhatsApp message with the text "hi." For international users, the number is +44 7860 064 422.
The GOV.UK Coronavirus Information Service should reduce the burden placed on NHS services, helping the British public get answers to the most common questions about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Get official COVID-19 updates for India with MyGov Corona Helpdesk
The Indian Government also teamed up with WhatsApp to launch a chatbot called MyGov Corona Helpdesk, designed to stop the spread of misinformation and put reliable official data and updates about the epidemic in the hands of the public. India's official chatbot is currently more advanced than the others in this article, because it also answers direct questions, on top of providing a menu where users can choose a topic. To access it, save the number (+91) 90 131 51515 in your phone contacts, and then send it your question in a message on WhatsApp.
As you can see above, some of the info comes with additional links meant to teach the Indian public how to stay safe.
You can also send Menu to get an overview of what the chatbot has to offer.
As you can see above, the chatbot also supports Hindi, and you can also get access to state-specific chatbots.
Get COVID-19 updates from the Australian Government
In addition to a dedicated app and telehealth services, people living in Australia can also benefit from an official WhatsApp group set up by their Government to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Like the other basic chatbots in this article, Australia's new WhatsApp messaging service returns accurate and relevant information about the Coronavirus promptly, based on the user's inputs. It can assist you in getting basic health advice, an overview of the current situation in Australia, as well as updates on the measures that are being put in place by state and federal governments, while also providing helpful links towards the SBS and the Government websites. To access the chatbot, go to aus.gov.au/whatsapp from your smartphone's browser and press Send.
TIP: Alternatively, you can also add the number (+61) 400 253 787 into your phone contacts and send it a message to get relevant information from the chatbot.
WhatsApp opens, and the service prompts you to insert a number or emoji in order to choose the data you want to see. Follow the instructions on the screen, and the information you need is immediately returned.
Get official COVID-19 updates for New Zealand with Govt.NZ
New Zealand plans to stay ahead of the curve and launched a government WhatsApp channel called Govt.NZ earlier this week. The free service allows you to access relevant official info during the COVID-19 pandemic to help you protect yourself and your family. Govt.NZ offers reliable data and news for the public, businesses, and healthcare providers. If you're living in New Zealand, access covid19.govt.nz/whatsapp on your mobile device and press Send.
WhatsApp launches, and you automatically join the government channel. Here, you can follow the instructions on the screen to access the info that interests you, ranging from updates to Coronavirus symptoms. You can also learn more about New Zealand's social media campaign #BeKindNZ. Type the number adjacent to the info you want and press Send for the relevant data to be returned.
Currently, the chatbot is available in English, but Maori, Samoan, Tongan, Mandarin, and Hindi versions should be added in a few days. Cook Island Maori and Fijian languages are planned for a subsequent release.
Get Coronavirus updates for South Africa with Contact NDoH
South Africa was the first to launch a WhatsApp chatbot, and it represents the starting point for WHO's Health Alert. The goal of the initiative is to keep the South African public informed by helping them access advice and updates about the epidemic free of charge, while also debunking myths about the virus. To access the channel, add the number (+27) 060 012 3456 in your phone contacts and send Hi on WhatsApp. As you can see below, the service delivers free automated responses about COVID-19 in five languages, that you can change at any time.
You can insert words to receive more information on a subject, ranging from Cases and News to Symptoms, Myths, and more. The info should help you and your loved ones get through these difficult times. Just follow the instructions on the screen to navigate the available data and find what you're looking for.
Get COVID-19 updates for Singapore with the Gov.sg WhatsApp service
Among the first to launch a COVID-19 WhatsApp service, Singapore allows the public to sign up for updates about the Coronavirus pandemic. The info you receive from the service includes Key Government announcements, updates on the number of cases and the measures taken, as well as clarifications on the rumors and misinformation circulating about the virus. If you're a citizen of Singapore, you can subscribe to updates by registering at go.gov.sg/Whatsapp. Fill in the form to access more information.
The service is available in four languages. You can choose one or more of them, and the system sends you updates in the selected language(s). When you are done making your choices, press Submit to subscribe, and you should receive a message to acknowledge you signed up successfully.
TIP: If you're living in the US, you may not have a dedicated WhatsApp channel, but there are plenty of other places for COVID-19 updates, as illustrated in 5 places to get live updates for COVID-19 in the US. For non-US English speakers, most of the sites in the article offer information for other areas also, so feel free to also take a look.
Do you know of other ways to get COVID-19 updates on WhatsApp?
We put together this article with the official WhatsApp channels currently available to the English-speaking public. It is worth mentioning that WhatsApp also rolled out a Coronavirus Information Hub to help users access reliable information and updates. As things progress, we expect more countries to turn to technology in order to keep the general public informed. If you know of a new chatbot we can add to this article, please let us know in a comment.