COVID-19 – update 3

Government Cornavirus service on WhatsApp

The UK Government has today launched a GOV.UK Coronavirus Information service on WhatsApp.

The new free to use service aims to provide official, trustworthy and timely information and advice about coronavirus (COVID-19), and will further reduce the burden on NHS services.

This will help combat the spread of coronavirus misinformation in the UK, as well as helping ensure people stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.

The GOV.UK Coronavirus Information Service is an automated ‘chatbot’ service which will allow the British public to get answers to the most common questions about coronavirus direct from the government.

The service will provide information on topics such as coronavirus prevention and symptoms, the latest number of cases in the UK, advice on staying at home, travel advice and myth-busting.

The service will also allow the government to send messages to all opted-in users if required.

To use the free GOV.UK Coronavirus Information Service on WhatsApp, simply add 07860 064422 in your phone contacts and then message the word ‘hi’ in a WhatsApp message to get started.

A set of menu options is then presented which the user can choose from and then be sent relevant guidance from GOV.UK pages as well as links to GOV.UK for further information.

Prof Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director, Public Health England, said:

This service will help us ensure the public has a trusted source for the right information about coronavirus, updated with the latest public health guidance and providing assurance that they are not misled by any of the false information circulating.

Matt Idema, Chief Operating Officer, WhatsApp, said:

At difficult times like these, people are using WhatsApp more than ever to connect with and support their friends, family and communities. We are pleased to be able to provide the UK Government with the communications tools to help them answer the public’s questions about the virus with reliable, timely health advice, in order to keep people safe.

 

Benefits reviews and assessments suspended

 

This temporary measure, effective from tomorrow (Tuesday 24 March), is being taken to reassure vulnerable people about the continuity of their benefits during the coronavirus outbreak and to ensure the Department’s resources are focused on enabling access to financial support for new claimants. This follows on from a previous announcement to suspend all face-to-face assessments in order to safeguard potentially vulnerable claimants.

Work and Pensions Secretary of State Thérèse Coffey said:

As this country ramps up its efforts to support people through coronavirus, we will do whatever it takes to protect claimants and our staff.

We are automatically extending all awards and reassessments for health and disability benefits to provide that reassurance to those in receipt of them.

Information for claimants

what this means for you:

  • there will be no new reviews or reassessments across all benefits for three months – this includes Universal Credit (UC), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.
  • face-to-face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits have been suspended for the next 3 months including for any new claims.
  • PIP claimants, if an assessment has already taken place this will continue to be processed. If an assessment has been scheduled, claimants will be contacted by the assessment provider to discuss how this will be taken forward.
  • ESA and UC claimants whose cases have been referred to the provider will be contacted to take this forward.

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