COVA – the COVID-19 Virtual Assistant

What is COVA?

We’ve launched COVA, the COVID-19 Virtual Assistant, to provide much needed additional support to people with arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions during the coronavirus pandemic.  

COVA is a button-based chatbot designed to help people with arthritis get relevant health information relating to COVID-19 quickly. It’s available 24/7, complementing existing services, which have seen an unprecedented increase during the pandemic.

How do I use COVA?

To talk to COVA, select the purple icon on the bottom right corner of this page. This will open the chat window. You can also find COVA on all of our webpages about COVID-19.

Use the buttons to select the topic that you want to know about, and follow any of the links that you’re interested in for more information.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be developing COVA so it can answer questions on a wider range of topics. We’ll also train it to respond to more specific questions, so you’ll be able to type in your own questions.

You can use COVA on your mobile, tablet or desktop computer.

How will COVA help people with arthritis?

The information on COVA is a ‘one-stop shop’ for anyone with arthritis wanting to know more about how COVID-19 will affect their daily lives. It’s the only source of information on COVID-19 available and relevant to the 18 million people with arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions in the UK.

COVA can help you to:

  • find answers 24 hours a day, seven days a week
  • save time searching for information and increasing your confidence in the advice so you can keep yourself mentally and physically healthy
  • understand your level of risk using our risk calculator, which we’ve worked on with the British Society of Rheumatology (BSR).

Other benefits of COVA are:

  • relieving the burden on health services at this busy time
  • reducing the number of calls to our helpline by providing an alternative way to contact us, which can allow our advisors to support people better.

Because we’re using AI technologies, we’ll be able to help more people and answer more questions than we would have otherwise been able to do.

What can COVA do?

COVA has been primed with questions that people with arthritis have asked about coronavirus – captured through calls to our helpline and on our online community forums and social media platforms. The topics COVA can help with are:

  • medication and medical appointments
  • guidance on isolation
  • keeping healthy during isolation
  • managing work and finances
  • general information about COVID-19.

The answers in COVA are being updated and reviewed regularly as new information becomes available. All of the answers are based on information from reliable and trusted sources, such as the NHS and GOV.UK, and they’re all approved by our health information team, who product all of our patient resources.

While much of the information in COVA is also on our website, a conversation with COVA can help you to get to the information you want quickly and can guide you through the risk calculator in a more friendly way.

Can COVA answer questions about other long-term conditions?

We’re in talks with other charities to see how we can expand COVA’s capabilities to answer questions on other long-term conditions.

What can't COVA do?

COVA can’t help with:

  • arranging support if you’re isolating (although it will signpost to relevant places)
  • diagnosing COVID-19/assessing symptoms
  • tracking symptoms
  • information on number of cases in your local area
  • putting you in touch with your doctor/rheumatology department.

Does COVA store my data?

COVA won’t ask for your personal information, but your conversations will be stored by our technology partner, Filament, to help us to analyse what people are asking about most so we can improve COVA.

Have people with arthritis been involved in the project?

So far, COVA has mostly been tested with people at Versus Arthritis, but it’s been designed on real enquiries. There’s also a short survey when you finish your conversation to allow us to get feedback from actual users, which will help us to make improvements.

How do I give feedback on COVA?

We’d welcome feedback – please email us at