The ongoing coronavirus situation is undoubtedly the biggest challenge the entire world is facing right now.
The fear of COVID-19 infection has been keeping everyone on their toes, so much so, that many people who are afraid they may have contacted the deadly virus are turning to their iPhones for advice, asking Siri such questions as "Hey Siri, how do I know if I have coronavirus?." And well, it seems, Siri does have the answer.
Apple gives Siri a new lifesaving ability
Apple has updated its digital voice assistant to provide users with a step-by-step questionnaire whenever they ask variations of "Hey Siri, do I have coronavirus?." In other words, Siri can now perform a quick screening to see if you need to see a doctor for coronavirus testing based on your answers to the questionnaire.
The update seems to have been made on March 21 as that is when iPhone users started to notice the new feature, and it comes just days after Apple updated its Apple News app for iPhone, iPad and Mac to show a dedicated 'coronavirus' section that shows curated news related to the pandemic from the leading global news agencies and also advisories and tips from various health authorities such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Hey Siri, do I have coronavirus?
The COVID-19 symptoms evaluation tool within Siri walks you through a simple questionnaire that asks questions the answers to which are from the US Public Health Service in concert with CDC. To get started all you need to do is ask Siri questions like "Hey Siri, do I have coronavirus?."
Once you ask the question, Siri will inform you about a few yes/no questions which will help you understand your situation and asks for your permission to begin. If you ask Siri to proceed, she will then ask if you're exhibiting any symptoms of the disease such as dry cough, fever, or shortness of breath. You can answer "Yes," "No", or "Not Sure." If your answer is "No" or "Not Sure," Siri will ask whether you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Let doctor Siri examine you
Siri will again give you three options "Yes", "No", or "Not Sure" and depending on your answer, she might tell you that you're at lower risk of infection but you need to stay vigilant for symptoms such as dry cough, fever or shortness of breath.
In case most or all your responses are in the affirmative, or when people say they are showing all the symptoms, Siri will advise them to consider calling 911. On the flipside, if Siri feels your symptoms are not extreme or life threatening, based on your answers, she will instruct you to stay at home and avoid contact with other people (aka practice social distancing). Nonetheless, she will advise you to contact a medical provider in case your condition becomes more severe.
Apart from this, Apple's voice-controlled digital assistant will also remind you to wash you hands for 20 seconds and avoid close contact with people outside your home. Siri also warns that although you might not be feeling sick or showing symptoms, you could still be carrying the COVID-19 virus and could spread it to others. Once the screening has ended, Siri will provide you with a link to CDC.gov
The feature is available only in the US at the time of writing, and it's still unclear whether Apple plans to expand the feature to other countries.
The answers that Siri gives to every question come from the US Public Health Service which is a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, and the CDC. So, you can rest assured that it's quite reliable.
Coronavirus features from other tech giants
Apple isn't the only major tech company to have come up with such features to help people worried about the pandemic which has so far claimed more than 15,000 lives and infected more than 300,000 people worldwide. WhatsApp, the world's most widely used messaging app, which is owned by Facebook, partnered with the WHO to launch a chatbot that answers users' queries related to coronavirus.
Google too launched its much-awaited website dedicated to providing information regarding coronavirus recently. Besides, it has added a new feature to Google Maps that displays a warning message to suspecting coronavirus patients who search for any medical-related location to call the doctor before visiting the office.