Stay updated via WhatsApp with a “hello”

The latest Covid-19 update from the World Health Organization states that there were 334,981 confirmed cases of contagion and 14,652 confirmed deaths, while the disease has now spread to 190 countries or territories: three new countries/territories/areas from the African Region, Region of the Americas and Eastern Mediterranean Region have reported new cases of Covid-19.  The most recent information - not yet included in the WHO updates - instead refers to Myanmar, one of the few Asian countries that had not yet reported cases of the virus (along with North Korea, Laos, and East Timor). Late in the evening of 23 march 2020, the Facebook page of the Italian embassy in Yangon ( confirmed “the news of the first two confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Myanmar. It seems they are two young people who recently returned from the US and UK, respectively”. The statement continued by expressing “solidarity with the Burmese people” and asking the many Italians still in the country to urgently send updated information and contact details.  Finally, in the last couple of hours, two cases of infection were confirmed in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, by the Deputy Minister of Health Phouthone Meuangpak in a press conference. The Kpl-Lao News Agency, the government’s press office, published the information (

The Facebook pages of the embassies are often a useful tool for updates on the situation in a specific country (for residents, tourists, and business travellers) because they are addressed to a single community and are therefore able to provide updates on flights, healthcare facilities, and visa expirations. But in order to obtain correct updates in real time and with verified information, the WHO website offers a very interesting service that can be used via WhatsApp, with extremely rapid answers and by searching the function on the individual topics in which you are most interested, from the spread of the virus to prevention.

To activate the service, simply go to the WHO website ( - but you can also receive the dedicated number from a friend - where you can find all of the information. The service - which was launched on 20 March - is a partnership with WhatsApp and Facebook which has, according to the WHO, the potential of reaching 2 billion people, who can access it easily from their mobile phones. “From government leaders to healthcare workers, family and friends, this messaging service provides the latest news and information on coronavirus, including details on symptoms and how people can protect themselves and others,” states the WHO. But the service seeks to go beyond citizens around the globe. “It provides the latest reports and numbers on the situation in real time to help those responsible for governmental decisions, in order to protect the health of their populations,” says the UN agency.

The OMS Health Alert service - developed in collaboration with Praekelt.Org, using Turn machine-learning technology - can be accessed through a link that opens a conversation on WhatsApp. You can do it from a PC or phone. Click on the icon on the site or send any message to +41 22 5017655 on WhatsApp. Users can simply type “hello” or any other word in any language to initiate the conversation and then receive a menu of options with several questions about the Covid-19 virus. You can also receive the classic newsletter on the page dedicated to traditional messaging via email. (