Coronavirus: How to get latest advice free on WhatsApp

A coronavirus advice campaign is being launched on WhatsApp as the government tries to battle misinformation about the pandemic. 

Users will be able to sign up to receive free messages with the latest official guidance on COVID-19 from an automated chatbot and directly from Whitehall.

Symptoms of the virus, tips to prevent getting it, travel information and the latest number of cases in the UK are some of the information the public will be able to get messaged directly to their phone.

Boris Johnson gave his address from Downing Street. Pic: Andrew Parsons
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Advice on staying at home and mythbusters to counter fake or misleading guidance that has been flying around are also available.

To receive the new updates, users need to add 07860 064422 to their phones and send a WhatsApp message to it saying “hi”.

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Professor Yvonne Doyle, the medical director of Public Health England, said the service will “help us ensure the public has a trusted source for the right information about coronavirus, updated with the latest public health guidance”.

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She added it would “provide assurance” to people they are “not misled by any of the false information circulating”.

CUCKFIELD, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 24: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) In this photo illustration is a copy of a text message received by the photographer from the UK government. The text reads 'GOV.UK CORONAVIRUS ALERT. New rules in force now: you must stay at home. More info and exemptions at gov.uk/coronavirus Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives' on March 24, 2020 in in Cuckfield, England. British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced strict lockdown measures urging people to stay at home and only leave the house for basic food shopping, exercise once a day and essential travel to and from work. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread to at least 182 countries, claiming over 10,000 lives and infecting hundreds of thousands more. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Image: A text was sent from the government to every UK phone number

Downing Street is already trying to work with tech giants to improve its communications strategy for tackling the coronavirus outbreak, which has at times been criticised as confusing.

Julian Knight, a Tory MP and head of parliament’s digital select committee, last week turned up the pressure on Downing Street over its response to disinformation about the new coronavirus.

“We’ve known since January about deliberate attempts to spread fear and falsehoods on social media about coronavirus, with potentially serious outcomes,” he wrote in a letter.

“We support the government’s decision to tackle disinformation and misinformation about COVID-19 at this critical time but question why it has taken so long for ministers to set this up.

Earlier this week, Number 10 sent a text to every active UK phone number to encourage people to stay home to avoid spreading COVID-19.

People are being told only to leave their home if they have to go into work, collect medicine and food, and get daily exercise.

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