Published on March 22, 2020

Ahmedabad: At EMRI’s headquarters in Kathwada, on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, time melts under artificial lights for the 30-odd call centre executives handling the 104 fever helpline round the clock. They face a barrage of calls, primarily related to COVID-19.
“The average daily calls before Monday were close to 100. From Monday, the first day of the unofficial lockdown, the calls started escalating and our average calls reached 800,” said a senior 104 coordinator. “From Thursday – when we recorded our first positive case — it has reached 8,000.”
Jashvant Prajapati, the COO of EMRI Gujarat, said that the service works with the state health department to disseminate the right information. “Citizens want to know about the new viral infection and how to safeguard against it,” he said. “Of the total calls, about 60% are to inquire about the helpline itself. A few also call to ascertain whether the symptoms they have are associated with COVID-19.”

Alpa Parmar, one of the executives, said: “A woman asked whether people can get infection from the auto driver stationed outside their society.” The woman said the driver often takes passengers from the international airport. “We commended her concern and told her to follow good hygiene practices and also impart those habits to the driver if possible,” Parmar said.

The majority of the calls are from four major cities, topped by Ahmedabad, which accounts for about 40% of the calls. “Our task is not only to provide answers to queries but also to assure people that if needed, they can get help including hospitalization,” said Pooja Patel, another executive.

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