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Apple’s Siri voice assistant now provides coronavirus advice

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Apple has updated Siri to provide information to people who are concerned they have COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, CNBC reports. Users can ask the voice assistant questions like “How do I know if I have coronavirus” or “Do I have coronavirus?” and it will offer advice based on their symptoms. Users started noticing the new functionality on Saturday.

When you first ask Siri about the virus, the voice assistant will ask whether you are experiencing related symptoms, which include a fever, dry cough, or shortness of breath. People with extreme or life-threatening illnesses are advised to call 911, while anyone who’s not sure is informed of the diseases symptoms and told to self-isolate if they appear. Links to telehealth apps on the App Store are provided for anyone who can’t currently reach a healthcare provider.

Siri’s answers are being provided from the US’s Public Health Service, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CNBC notes.

At the moment, the answers appear to be focussed on users in the US. We tried asking Siri for advice in the UK, and the voice assistant simply provided us with a link to an information page on a UK government website. There was no questionnaire about symptoms or links to the App Store.

Siri’s new functionality mirrors similar efforts from other tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft who have launched information resources about the virus. Facebook has added a coronavirus information center to the top of its News Feed in the United States which passes on information from the World Health Organization and CDC, while Google has also launched an informational site. Microsoft, meanwhile, has launched an interactive map, and also worked with the CDC to produce a “self-checker” chatbot.

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