Coronavirus: UK’s WhatsApp bot working after false begin

Screenshot of WhatsApp message from government coronavirus bot
Image caption Initially, the bot failed to answer some customers and so they needed to say ‘hello’ once more

A Covid-19 WhatsApp bot arrange by the UK authorities is lastly working after issues throughout launch on Wednesday.

Members of the general public who message the bot can entry pre-determined chunks of recommendation on signs or tips on how to keep away from spreading the illness, for instance.

But it didn’t work for some customers after its launch, offering nothing greater than an error message.

However, the BBC has verified that the bot, which additionally warns about coronavirus myths, is now working as meant.

One of those that encountered preliminary teething issues, Hashir Milhan, says all appears to be resolved.

“I tried sending the opening ‘hi’ message with no response,” London-based designer Mr Milhan instructed the BBC.

He mentioned the bot did reply later – however solely to ship him an error message.

But on Thursday, he was in a position to entry the knowledge with out issues.

He famous that the knowledge was usually accessible on-line however added: “It’s reassuring that this comes from a verified account.”

The authorities mentioned the service was designed to permit members of the general public to “get answers to the most common questions about coronavirus”.

But Mr Milhan mentioned he had hoped the bot would have the ability to interact in and perceive conversations, so as to reply to queries folks might need on the spot.

To begin receiving messages, customers ought to ship “hi” through WhatsApp to the quantity 07860 064422. International customers can use +44 7860 064 422.

The UK authorities doesn’t have an official emergency alert system with which to contact residents straight throughout a disaster.

However, authorities are distributing info by way of numerous channels, together with web sites and social media, in addition to the brand new WhatsApp bot.

Telecoms corporations have been additionally requested to ship out an alert to all prospects through textual content message this week, stating that individuals should now keep at home as a lot as potential.

The texts have rolled out steadily to customers and scammers have already tried to benefit from the state of affairs.

Some have despatched pretend messages accusing people of leaving their houses greater than as soon as a day – the restrict set by the federal government – and telling them they’re now liable to pay a effective.

Number 10 mentioned folks ought to belief solely the official message.