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Official decries abusive phone calls to helpline

Ministry of Health operators of the COVID-19 toll-free helpline are being subjected to abusive language and prank calls, a senior official has revealed.

M.O.H. Assistant Chief Executive Officer [Health Protection and Enforcement], Mae'e Ualesi Falefa Silva, expressed concern when speaking on the Health of the Nation Programme last Friday that health workers who are manning the helpline are being subjected to abuse by anonymous callers.

She said the ministry staff are working overtime to assist the public with queries on the COVID-19 global pandemic and it is unacceptable that they are receiving abusive phone calls through the toll-free service.

“We’ve been taking [random] phone calls from people tending to deceive, curse at us with ugly words which are very unacceptable while we work 24 hours to serve the country with information for a general safety [amidst the Covid-19],” she said.

“And so we have noted [those] phone numbers for investigations because these people obviously don’t need help but instead intend to show such ugly behaviours over the phone.

“Maybe it’s because it’s free of charge, hence why they like calling to show these misbehaviours while really, our service is to assist the country during this horrible time of a global health crisis.”

The MOH helpline was set up amidst the global pandemic to assist the public with COVID-19 related information as well as state of emergency [S.O.E.] orders. Information regarding quarantine sites as well as rules governing their operations can also be obtained from the helpline.

According to Mae’e, the majority of the “mischievous” anonymous callers sound like young people, consequently her appeal to parents to watch their children’s behavior and advice them.

“But some are also older people so our plea is to use our service wisely please, call us on the number 8006440 for help or any queries you may have,” she added.

“It is very important for us to provide you with the information especially if it’s about our quarantine sites and more so that we can understand and be aware of.”

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