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Activate WHO WhatsApp Health Alert On Your Smartphone For Authentic Pandemic Updates

“Pandemic” and “Infodemic,” both names are synonymous with the current global outbreak of COVID-19. 

While the COVID-19 coronavirus rages through the world, claiming 16,231 lives and infecting 372,757 people as of March 24, misinformation and disinformation about the disease also grasp the world with equal intensity.

However, WHO, the most trusted resource for learning about the pandemic, has launched a messaging service with partners WhatsApp and Facebook to ensure the safety of the people from the COVID-19 coronavirus. 

How A Pandemic Became An Infodemic? Who To Trust?

In today’s world, where communication sources are innumerable and social media can make and break governments, a pandemic like the COVID-19 becomes an easy prey to people’s extended curiosity. 

According to WHO, the world is now riddled with an “overabundance” of information. Dissecting the truth from the false and misleading information thus becomes ever more difficult. 

While misinformation refers to the spreading of false information unintentionally or without proper knowledge, disinformation means propagating such false messages knowingly or purposefully. 

Both are being spread during the current pandemic across social media platforms. 

The problem is when people believe in them and take actions accordingly that put them or others under their influence at risk.

Experts warn that governments and business leaders must take specific actions to ensure that the people are delivered only credible information. According to them, an employer of an individual is the most trusted source of true information for that person, several points higher than the media and the government. Also, scientists and other field-specific experts also score high on people’s trust meter. Hence, the experts suggest that employers take up the responsibility of transmitting the correct information to their employees regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Governments and media must also quote or refer to scientists and other experts while mentioning the information delivered by them on the pandemic.

WhatsApp Under Scrutiny

Empty hall from the airport DUS, Düsseldorf, impact from the COVID 19 epidemic. Also with a message about fakenews via Whatsapp. Image credit: JoJoMoJo.94 / Shutterstock.com

On March 16, the Irish Leo Varadkar said on Twitter: "I am urging everyone to please stop sharing unverified info on WhatsApp groups.” 

Not just him, leaders and medical officials across the world are worried about how WhatsApp, one of the most popular messaging platforms in the globe, and owned by Facebook, is being used to spread notoriously false information about the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

The misleading and false information including text messages, videos, and images are forwarded on smartphones to friends and relatives who then propagate it further creating a long chain of misinformation urging people to take unnecessary steps. At times, the messages also mix sound advice with false ones or mention the name of trusted sources like a known doctor or government official giving out such information. 

False or unverified cures suggested for treating the novel coronavirus infection like drinking warm water every 15 minutes, taking warm baths, use of hand dryers to kill the virus, rinsing the nose with saline, etc., have been propagated through such social media platforms.

However, given people’s heavy reliance on WhatsApp and other social media platforms, it is extremely hard for authorities to curb this trend of spread of false information via them. What then can be done?

A recently launched WhatsApp Health Alert by WHO can be a massive help in this direction.

WhatsApp Health Alert From WHO: Your Most Trusted Source On COVID-19 Pandemic

On March 20, WHO launched a messaging service with WhatsApp and Facebook as partners. The service was aimed at delivering authentic information about the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic directly into the hands of the people. According to WHO, the service can potentially reach 2 billion people. 

The WHO WhatsApp Health Alerts provides the most updated news and information on the coronavirus pandemic including the latest numbers, how to protect yourself, your questions answered, mythbusters, travel advice, and news and press. You also have the option of sharing the service with your friends and family and donating for the cause.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how you can access this service on your smartphone:

  1. Click on the following link on your smartphone to open a WhatsApp conversation with WHO. 
  2. Type "hi" to activate the conversation. A menu of options appear on the screen.
  3. Type in the numbers mentioned on the menu to see the information of your choice.
  4. Go back to main menu by typing 0.

So, stay protected and spread the truth.

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