The World Health Organisation (WHO) launched a messaging service on WhatsApp to provide updates and alerts about the global Covid-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, with the help of machine learning (ML) technology.

In a statement, WHO said its Health Alert provides news and insights about the pandemic, including details on symptoms, and guidelines for users to protect themselves and other people.

The service also offers real-time situation reports and numbers, “to help government decision-makers protect the health of their populations,” the organisation noted.

It was developed in collaboration with South Africa-based non-profit organisation Praekelt Foundation.

Users access a WHO chatbot, which offers various options on information available, including details on the latest number of cases, recommendations for protecting themselves, news and travel advice.

WHO hailed the potential reach the tie-up with WhatsApp offered: the number of monthly active users of the messaging app surpassed 2 billion last month.

The collaboration is the latest move by the Facebook-owned service, coming after it pledged $1 million to establish an information centre to tackle fake news about the virus, along with tips and recommendations to limit its spread.