Coronavirus

Government launches coronavirus WhatsApp messaging service

The new service was launched on Sunday. Source: WhatsApp, AAP

Facing criticism over its crisis communications, the federal government has launched a new WhatsApp account and app.

The federal government has announced new COVID-19 information services for Australians.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a WhatsApp account has been set up for government messaging.

"It will assist you [to] get accurate and timely information about what is being done by governments around the country," Mr Morrison told reporters.

He said the service was developed in partnership with Atlassian and Facebook.

To access the service, Australians will need to download WhatsApp, then go an internet browser and visit www.aus.gov.au/whatsapp

Users will be prompted "to learn more about COVID-19 in Australia, [by] press[ing] the send button." 

Information includes "check your symptoms", "support for people and families" and "advice from states and territories".

New app

Mr Morrison also announced a new Coronavirus Australia app is available via the Apple App Store and Google Play.

"[It provides] further information, more resources, a trusted place of advice and information that you and your family and your business can use to understand the decisions and the information that is available to everybody about what is occurring with the coronavirus," Mr Morrison said.

To download the app, search "Coronavirus Australia" in the Apple App Store or on Google Play.

The measures come as some risk communications experts criticised Mr Morrison's handling of the crisis.

"The prime minister's first problem is that he often sounds angry and frustrated with the public  ... it doesn't make people feel respected or involved with the decision making," University of Sydney's Claire Hooker told SBS News this week.

The number of Australians who have died after contracting COVID-19 reached at least 16 on Sunday, following the death of two more people overnight.

But the federal government said the daily rate of increase in cases has dropped of this weekend.

Last week, cases were rising between 25 and 30 per cent a day. That has now dropped to a daily rise of about 13-15 per cent this weekend. 

Health Minister Greg Hunt said there were "early signs of flattening the curve".

Australians must stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people. Indoors, there must be a density of no more than one person per four square metres of floor space.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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