Coronavirus: Dubai's rumour-busting Covid-19 WhatsApp service receives 54,800 requests for help

The service offers key information on the pandemic and aims to counter misinformation about the virus

A Covid-19 messaging service established by health chiefs in Dubai has received more than 50,000 requests for support in less than six months.

The Dubai Health Authority WhatsApp service was rolled out in April to answer pressing concerns about the pandemic.

The automated 24-hour platform has handled 54,881 unique requests from the public on a raft of issues relating to Covid-19.

The authority said the scheme was key to efforts to provide accurate information about the virus and debunk myths and rumours about its spread.

The most asked question is: "Am I eligible for a coronavirus test and what is the procedure to get the test?"

The next most popular queries are "Can I get a coronavirus medical certificate?" and "I suspect that there is a sick person with Coronavirus, what do I do?"

Fatma Al Khaja, director of the Customer Happiness Department at DHA, said the service has offered crucial assistance for people searching for verified information and advice about coronavirus.

"We wanted a system that would respond to patients’ queries timeously and to give people a credible channel to receive accurate information. The system provides users with an opportunity to learn more about the virus, get UAE statistics and even find out if they are eligible for a coronavirus test," the official said.

DHA has partnered with Facebook for a social media advertising campaign aimed at driving more people to government websites for official information on the pandemic.

Between April and September, the DHA ads on Instagram and Facebook have reached more than six million unique users and have been viewed more than 36 million times.

"Facebook is supporting the global public health community’s work to keep people safe and informed during the coronavirus public health crisis," said Ramez Shehadi, managing director for Facebook MENA.

"By partnering with the DHA on the WhatsApp service, we are empowering people to access accurate information at the touch of a button, supporting those who require the services and making it easier for people to get tested."

The DHA WhatsApp hotline utilises artificial intelligence to provide quick and accurate information.

To access the service, users can add 800 342 to their phone contacts and send "Hi" on WhatsApp.