Helpline crashes as Cypriots ask silly COVID-19 questions

1 min read

Cyprus’ ambulance service helpline is crashing under the weight of thousands of calls a day from citizens asking trivial questions about coronavirus rather than reporting symptoms.

The ambulance service has issued an appeal to people not to call the helpline unless there is an emergency concerning a possible coronavirus case.

Head of the department, Rania Constantinou said the 1420 helpline is getting some 400 calls every 30 minutes, with people asking trivial questions such if they can get sick from eating fruit which may have been pecked by birds carrying the virus.

Or whether they can eat food imported from Italy.

“They call us to ask if there are fish from China on the market which may carry the coronavirus,” said Constantinou.

“One lady asked us if she could wrap her koupepia at home as she was worried the virus might find a way in, while another wanted to know if it was safe to go to the mall. If we refuse to answer them, they yell at us, and even swear at us,” she added.

She said such unnecessary calls had to stop because while somebody is asking about the fruit on their tree, somebody who may be suffering from the virus cannot get through.

“At the moment we are getting 400 calls every 30 minutes, with only 10% of the calls being from people who actually do need help,” said Constantinou.

Despite helpline staff are 20 times more than before the outbreak with many more lines installed, they are still having difficulties coping.

“No organisation and no state can respond properly to the crisis, if citizens don’t behave responsibly, realizing that this is a line for those in need.”

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou renewed his call to citizens to follow the basic rules of personal hygiene and take self-protection measures, in particular those who have recently travelled to countries with cases of coronavirus.

He said that only those who develop symptoms should call 1420 helpline.

People who want more information on the virus can visit the state website www.pio.gov.cy/coronavirus

created by the Press and Information Office in collaboration with the Ministry of Health.