Google to Show COVID-19 Vaccine Information; Testing Feature to Show Availability of Hospital Beds, Oxygen

Google on Monday announced that it has rolled out new updates to Search in India to show people information related to COVID-19 vaccine and its registration. The US-based company is also testing new features on Google Maps to help users in the country find critical resources such as hospital beds and medical oxygen using crowd-sourced information amid a surge in COVID-19 cases. Google has also said that it has been helping non-profit organisations including GiveIndia, Charities Aid Foundation India, GOONJ, and United Way of Mumbai raise funds.

One of the most prominent updates that Google has provided on its platforms to support the ongoing COVID-19 fight in India is with respect to Google Search. When users ask questions about vaccines on Google Search, they are being provided with different information panels that show updates on vaccine safety, efficacy, and side-effects, along with information about registration. The search giant also gives a link to the government’s CoWIN portal to let users register for the COVID-19 vaccine.

google covid 19 vaccine india image Google Search  Google  COVID 19

Google Search has started providing COVID-19 vaccine information in India
Photo Credit: Google India

 

In addition to latest updates on vaccines, Google Search has also started showing information about prevention, self-care, and treatment for the deadly infection under the Prevention and Treatment tab when searching for COVID-19. The details are sourced from authorised medical sources and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Last year, Google provided a similar experience to help users find their nearby test centres. It also recently featured a Doodle on its homepage to encourage COVID-19 vaccination.

Aside from bringing vaccine updates and information on Google Search, Google has also created a set of playlists on YouTube to provide authoritative information about vaccines, preventing the spread of the coronavirus, and facts from experts on COVID-19 care. These playlists are accessible through the YouTube India channel.

Google Search and Google Maps have also been enabled to share locations of over 23,000 vaccination centres nationwide. This information will be available from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and in English as well as eight Indian languages. Up until now, Google was showing information about 2,500 testing centres in the country.

As many Indians continue to look for information about various resources related to the COVID-19 care online, Google said that it has started testing a new feature using the Q&A function in Google Maps, which will allow users to ask about and share local information on availability of beds and medical oxygen in select locations. The company, however, cautioned that the information will be user-generated and not provided by authorised sources, which means that will need to be verified.

Twitter also provided similar features that let users find appropriate resources shared by others on its microblogging site. Similarly, Facebook and WhatsApp also have many groups that help people find resources, such as hospital beds, medical oxygen, plasma donors, etc.

Google also recently started showing important safety messages, including as part of the ‘Get the Facts’ around vaccines campaign. These messages appear on Google homepage, Doodles, and reminders within the company’s apps and services.

Additionally, Google said that it is running an internal donation campaign to raise funds for non-profit organisations including GiveIndia, Charities Aid Foundation India, GOONJ, and United Way of Mumbai. The campaign has raised over Rs. 33 crores ($4.6 million) to date, the company has claimed.

Google Pay users have also provided a COVID Aid campaign to let individuals donate and help NGOs supporting those who are in need.

“As India battles this devastating wave, we’ll keep doing all we can to support the selfless individuals and committed organisations on the front lines of the response,” the company said in a blog post.

The latest wave of the coronavirus pandemic has significantly impacted India, with over 3,66,000 new cases and 3,754 fatalities reported just on Monday. The government last week expanded the COVID-19 vaccination drive in the country by allowing people between 18–44 years to get the shots. However, people are unable to book appointments due to the shortage of stock.


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Fake COVID-19 Vaccine Registration SMS Message in Circulation, Aims to Install Malicious App

A fake SMS message is in circulation that falsely claims to offer an app to let users register for COVID-19 vaccine in India. However, instead of providing a legitimate way to register for the vaccination, the app is aimed at propagating malware via SMS messages once it is installed on a mobile device. The malicious app was initially named COVID-19, though it later received an update that renamed it as Vaccine Register. Attackers may be able to convince users to install the app as a large number of people faced issues while registering for the COVID-19 vaccine through the official CoWIN portal.

Cybersecurity firm ESET’s malware researcher Lukas Stefanko has tweeted about the SMS message that asks users to download the app to register for the COVID-19 vaccination. The message is targeted at Indian users and is designed in a way that impersonates ‘COVID-19 vaccine free registration’, according to the researcher.

 

The researcher said that the SMS message, however, carries a link that installs a worm app, which essentially spreads itself via SMS to victims’ contacts with the link to download the malware. The app also gains unnecessary permissions that attackers could leverage to acquire user data.

Although the app was initially called COVID-19, it was renamed to Vaccine Register and received a light mode to reach even further devices over time. It is also found to have support for dual-SIM connectivity. This will allow the malware to propagate using the first available operator available on the device.

Users are highly recommended to avoid to any SMS messages that contain links asking them to download apps. It is also important to note that registrations for COVID-19 vaccines are currently taking place only through the CoWIN portal as well as the Aarogya Setu and Umang apps.

However, there are third-party sites through which you can receive notifications when a slot for the jab is available. The government has also provided the option to find your nearby COVID-19 vaccination centre using the MyGov Corona Helpdesk chatbot.

The government expanded the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the country last week by starting registrations from people between 18–44 years. The vaccine registrations were earlier open for the people of 45 years and above age.


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Jagmeet Singh writes about consumer technology for Gadgets 360, out of New Delhi. Jagmeet is a senior reporter for Gadgets 360, and has frequently written about apps, computer security, Internet services, and telecom developments. Jagmeet is available on Twitter at @JagmeetS13 or Email at jagmeets@ndtv.com. Please send in your leads and tips.
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Google Doodle Encourages People to Get COVID-19 Vaccine, Wear Face Masks

Google on Saturday developed a dedicated Doodle to create awareness for the COVID-19 vaccines and promote the sense of wearing face masks among people, amidst a massive surge in coronavirus cases. The Google Doodle is featured on the search engine’s homepage with animation effects to gain attention of the masses. Upon clicking on it, the Doodle shows search results on COVID-19 vaccines. The new development by Google comes amid the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination drive in India for people aged 18 years and above. It is currently live in six states, though others are likely to join — depending on the availability of the vaccines.

The Google Doodle encouraging people for the COVID-19 vaccine is available in countries including the US, UK, Canada, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. It features Google logo’s alphabets with face masks and bandages to represent people getting vaccinated.

Once a user clicks on the Doodle, it takes to the search results about the term “COVID vaccine”. The research result page also carries a sidebar that provides details about the COVID-19 jab as well as informs users about where to get the vaccine, who are priority groups, and what’s its effectiveness. The sidebar also has links to the news about the COVID-19 vaccine and the data about its rollout. Users are also shown with the information about the safety and side effects of the vaccine.

The Doodle carries a message that reads, “Get vaccinated, wear a mask. Save lives.” It can be read by hovering over the cursor on the Doodle image.

Earlier this week, the Indian government launched registrations for COVID-19 vaccine for people aged between 18–44 years. The vaccination drive for the eligible people started in a gradual manner earlier on Saturday in six cities, namely Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, and Odisha. However, there is no word on when it would reach other cities, due to the ongoing shortage of COVID-19 vaccines in the country.


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