There has been an immense disruption in international travel and normalcy amidst the Coronavirus pandemic. People across the world are in confusion and uncertainty about various aspects related to health care including safety measures and other concerns. Even the High Commission of Canada in India (HCI) and Consulates in Toronto and Vancouver have been flooded with questions around the COVID-19 pandemic by persons of Indian origin (PIOs). With over 1.6 million PIOs and approximately 200,000 students from India enrolled in various Canadian colleges and universities, it has been a challenging situation for the HCI and Consulates.

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After much deliberation and the fact that the number of frantic calls were only increasing by the day, the HCI decided to get in touch with, India's leading conversational platform and Portea Medical, a home healthcare company to develop automated multilingual chatbot called CANbot. Accessible from HCI's website, the bot will be a one-stop source of information for Indian nationals, students and PIOs in Canada. CANBot will assist them with answers to questions around COVID-19, public safety measures taken in India and Canada and restrictions on international travel.

The information will be provided via WhatsApp in English, Hindi, and Punjabi. The chat can also be transferred to respective consulates for better redressal of queries if required.

Speaking on the launch, the High Commissioner of India to Canada, Ajay Bisaria, said that the High Commission wanted to create a service that can assist people in this emergency. "We empathize with people's concerns in these troubled times and the need to receive immediate and accurate information wherever they are", the High Commissioner added.

Speaking about this, Meena Ganesh, MD and CEO, Portea Medical, said, "CANbot has the ability to quickly respond to the user's questions relating to Covid-19, public safety measures taken in India and Canada and restrictions on international travel. Timely dissemination of verified information, education and avoiding fake news are a must during a public health emergency. We are happy to have associated with the High Commission of India in Canada and Verloop at this crucial hour."

Adding his comments, Gaurav Singh, Founder, Verloop, said, "The COVID-19 pandemic has led to either complete lockdown or travel restrictions and consequently, the HCI was inundated with calls from PIOs and students for help and clarity. The CANBot will be an apt solution to this and will help in managing the sudden spike in conversations around travel and visa restrictions etc. It is a true example of how technology can be used to manage so many queries comprehensively. The automated platform will enable the HCI to handle the increased volume of calls with minimal need for human intervention."

The chatbot will greet people with a welcome message and ask them to choose from available options depending on the information they need. Data, travel advisory, and related information available on the CANbot have been sourced from the HCI. Information about COVID-19 has been sourced from WHO, CDC and John Hopkins and further verified by experts at Portea Medical. This ensures that only authentic, helpful and easy-to-understand information is shared with the users. Verloop has developed the technical aspects of the Chatbot employing cutting-edge IT tools to better inform the public in critical times.