by Okeri Ngutjinazo

OVER 360 000 calls have been made to the Covid-19 toll-free number, which was set up by the ministry of health to assist with answering questions, receiving complaints and addressing concerns over the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over 360 000 calls have been made to the Covid-19 toll-free number. Photo: Arlana Shikongo

The number was set up after the country confirmed its first two coronavirus cases on 13 March. Namibia currently has 16 confirmed cases and six recoveries. Head of the call centre, Lineekela Kalimba said they have received 360 200 calls to date, however, when they started, they would receive up to 25 000 calls per day.

This has dropped to around 5 000 per day.

The call centre was declared a Public Emergency Operation Centre (PHEOC) dealing with all outbreaks in the country, and the hotline is one of the components of the centre.

When Covid-19 was confirmed in the country, the government increased available call lines from five to eleven.

The centre operates 24/7 with a staff of 45 people working in three shifts.

Kalimba said operators include volunteers, who are graduates in different healthcare fields.

They assist callers in all languages spoken in Namibia.

Kalimba said they only refer people who meet the Covid-19 case definition for testing.

Those meeting this definition in Khomas are referred to the Robert Mugabe Clinic if the caller has private transport, as public transport is discouraged.

If the caller has no access to private transport, he or she is referred to a rapid response team or a doctor on call.

In the regions, people are referred to the regional surveillance team, or the regional medical officer or matron.

Kalimba said once a caller dials the number it is visible to operators.

Callers typically complain about police officers implementing lockdown rules, tenants not being able to pay their rent, domestic disputes, and some callers complain of boredom.

She warned the public to refrain from making prank calls, saying it has happened twice.

“We sent a rapid response team to a certain house at Gobabis and it was a prank. The team was furious and we were disappointed,” she says.

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