The World Health Organization (WHO) now is working with giant social media companies to help give information to billions of people globally which could hopefully stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
In his message during Friday’s media briefing, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus revealed the plans that WHO is working with WhatsApp and Facebook.
“To increase access to reliable information, WHO has worked with WhatsApp and Facebook to launch a new WHO Health Alert messaging service,” said Tedros, during the WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 on March 20.
“This service will provide the latest news and information on COVID-19, including details on symptoms and how to protect yourself,” he said.
Tedros said the Health Alert service is now available in English and will be introduced in other languages next week.
Tedros said, to access it, send the word “hi” to the following number on WhatsApp: +41 798 931 892. This information will be available on their website later today.
According to Tedros, “COVID-19 is taking so much from us. But it’s also giving us something special – the opportunity to come together as one humanity – to work together, to learn together, to grow together.”
He said every day, COVID-19 seems to reach a new and tragic milestone. More than 210,000 cases have now been reported to WHO, and more than 9,000 people have lost their lives.
Every loss of life is a tragedy. “It’s also motivation to double down and do everything we can to stop transmission and save lives.”
“We also need to celebrate our successes. Yesterday, Wuhan reported no new cases for the first time since the outbreak started,” he said.
Wuhan provides hope for the rest of the world, that even the most severe situation can be turned around.
“Of course, we must exercise caution – the situation can reverse. But the experience of cities and countries that have pushed back this virus give hope and courage to the rest of the world.
Every day, we are learning more about this virus and the disease it causes. One of the things we are learning is that although older people are the hardest hit, younger people are not spared,” Tedros said.
Data from many countries clearly show that people under 50 make up a significant proportion of patients requiring hospitalization.
Tedros also warned everyone that people are not invincible, not even the young.
“Today, I have a message for young people: you are not invincible. This virus could put you in hospital for weeks, or even kill you,” he said.
“Even if you don’t get sick, the choices you make about where you go could be the difference between life and death for someone else. I’m grateful that so many young people are spreading the word and not the virus. As I keep saying, solidarity is the key to defeating COVID-19 – solidarity between countries, but also between age groups,” he said.
“We’ve said from the beginning that our greatest concern is the impact this virus could have if it gains a foothold in countries with weaker health systems, or with vulnerable populations.
That concern has now become very real and urgent,” said Tedros.
“We know that if this disease takes hold in these countries, there could be significant sickness and loss of life. But that is not inevitable. Unlike any pandemic in history, we have the power to change the way this goes,” he said./ Stacy Ang