Coronavirus outbreak: WHO, PIB join Whatsapp to send real-time, accurate info on Covid-19
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Indian government’s Press Information Bureau (PIB) have joined popular messaging platform WhatsApp to provide accurate information in real time and to counter fake information about the Covid-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has hit 176 countries, infected over 200,000 people and killed almost 9,000 since it was first detected in December in China’s Wuhan.
WhatsApp users can add WHO’s number— +41-798931892 — to their list of contacts and get information from the international public health agency. “This service will provide you with the latest information and guidance from the WHO on the current outbreak of coronavirus disease [Covid-19] that was first reported on 31 December 2019,” the agency said.
The WHO’s move is expected to combat misinformation being forwarded on the platform.
HT has reported about unproven remedies being circulated on the platform that recommended the use of homeopathic drug Arsenic Album-30, eating onions and boiled garlic etc to keep the virus away.
Several fake UN documents have also been circulated that suggested drinking hot water, exposure to sunlight, staying away from ice cream and avoiding cold foods, gargling with salt water to combat the virus.
Another viral post on social media claimed the Stanford University has advised sipping water to kill the virus.
Another message on WhatsApp cited various doctors and claimed the virus is not heat resistant and will be killed at temperatures of 30 to 35 degrees C.
The WHO has been busting such myths on its website. “From evidence so far, the Covid-19 virus can be transmitted in all areas, including areas with hot and humid weather.” It has also underlined that taking hot baths cannot prevent the infection and said mosquitoes do not transmit the disease.
Dr Atul Gogia, a senior consultant at New Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, called the WHO’s move a very important step. “If the WHO or the [Union] ministry of health puts up information on the messaging apps used by most, they will have a source they can rely on. There are so many messages on WhatsApp... you do not know what is fake and what is real. And if people are unsure about something, they now have a platform to crosscheck it with. It is also useful for medical professionals. There are so many trials and papers being published every day. We will be able to get the latest and best information,” said Gogia.
WhatsApp users can send messages via PIB’s number +918799711259 or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org for verification of information being circulated.