Google to launch a coronavirus website in partnership with US government

Company said a life sciences division, Verily, was in the early stages of developing a tool to help triage Americans who may need testing for the virus

People pass by an entrance to Google offices in New York, U.S., June 4, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Alphabet's Google said on Saturday that it was working with the US government to develop a nationwide website that would help Americans address questions about coronavirus symptoms, risk factors and testing.

"We are fully aligned and continue to work with the US government to contain the spread of Covid-19, inform citizens and protect the health of our communities," Google wrote on Twitter.

President Donald Trump had thanked Google on Friday for developing a website that he said would help people determine whether they needed a coronavirus test, saying that 1,700 engineers were working on it.

That prompted the search and advertising giant to respond that, in fact, a life sciences division, Verily, was in the early stages of developing a tool to help triage Americans who may need testing for the coronavirus and that it would be tested in the Bay Area and expanded over time.

Alphabet’s shares closed up more than 9 per cent after the Friday announcement by the president.

Pressure has been rising on US officials to increase and improve testing for the fast-spreading virus, which has reached almost every US state, closed schools and forced the cancellation of thousands of sporting events, conferences and concerts amid efforts to stop its spread by keeping Americans out of big crowds.

Like Google, Verily is a subsidiary of Alphabet, which is based in Mountain View, California.

The co-operation with the Trump administration comes as Alphabet faces antitrust investigations by federal and state agencies over its search and digital advertising businesses, among others.

Additionally, Mr Trump has accused Google of skewing its search results to portray him negatively. The company has also attracted the administration’s ire for not renewing a contract to provide its artificial intelligence technologies for a military drone programme.