Aus govt launches coronavirus alert app, WhatsApp service

Aus govt launches coronavirus alert app, WhatsApp service

The Australian Government has developed a standalone mobile app to deliver localised coronavirus information, diagnoses assistance, and health advice to users.

The Coronavirus Australia app features a real-time information service, expert health advice, and recommendations for the public to help mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

Through the app, users will be able to access feeds on their smartphones showing the Government’s health, safety, and social services being deployed in response to coronavirus epidemic.

While not in real-time, the regularly updated feeds include advice on coronavirus symptoms, social welfare, help, safety, and hygiene. Statistics on the local spread of the virus are also shared.

The Government has also launched a separate Covid-19 update service through WhatsApp. To trigger the service, users must message a number or emoji to the Government’s dedicated WhatsApp service number, with the account acting as a “messenger bot” to feed information to users as and when prompted.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison spruiked the services as the most “accurate and timely” source of information provided by the Government in response to the pandemic.

To date, more than 290,000 people have signed up for the WhatsApp service. This was marked by nearly 482,000 downloads and one million messages relayed through the dedicated app.

The local WhatsApp scheme replicates a similar service available from the World Health Organisation. The organisation’s WhatsApp service provides global updates on the pandemic for government and citizens.

The WHO app also helps decision-makers by providing the latest numbers and situation reports from around the world.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand Government last week launched its own Covid-19 WhatsApp service,

Ann-Marie Cavanagh, deputy chief executive for digital services at the Department of Internal Affairs said the WhatsApp service provides New Zealanders with an important source of trusted information.

“These all help to provide official information as quickly as possible to the public — while also providing more channels for engagement with government,” Cavanagh said.

This service is supported by website and a new non-clinical 0800 Call Centre.