Coronavirus fears to lockdown queries — Delhi police helpline is flooded with calls

Somya Lakhani
delhi police, india lockdown, coronavirus

Delhi Police giving masks to children in Delhi on Wednesday. (Express photo by Amit Mehra)

On March 23, a day after the ‘janata curfew’, the Delhi Police Control Room in Haiderpur received over 4,200 calls regarding the lockdown in the capital -- from inquiries regarding ration shops and grocery stores, public transport, and even about how to deliver food to the hungry.

Since then, the control room, which gets over 15,000 calls daily on the emergency number 112, has got at least 4,000-5,000 calls about the 21-day lockdown, said DCP (Communications) S K Singh.

At the Haiderpur office, a staff of 200-plus personnel have been handling the calls.

Apart from this, the control room has been inundated with calls related specifically to coronavirus -- over 4,000 since March 12.

“On Wednesday, we received over 750 calls regarding coronavirus, ranging from people saying they are feeling uneasy and want to go to the hospital, to some complaining against a neighbour who sneezed or foreigners in the neighbourhood. We send a CATS ambulance wherever there is need, along with PCR and local police staff,” said Singh.

He said that between March 12 and March 21, they received 494 calls regarding the virus and that the number jumped March 23 onwards.

A few days ago, the helpline received a panicked call from a resident, who said: “Ek ladki ko coronavirus ho raha hai, gali mein ghoom rahi hai. Hume khatra hai, iska test karvaaiye.”

A 23-year-old tasked with attending calls told The Indian Express, “We mostly get two types of calls -- about crowded markets or restaurants that haven’t shut shop, and complaints against neighbours who have returned from abroad and are refusing to follow home quarantine.”

A senior police officer said, “There are 26 helplines, apart from 112, such as the women’s helpline number, one for Northeastern residents, for children, and senior citizens. Mostly, calls come on 112 but a few also on other numbers. There are 122 call-takers in all.”

One of the earliest coronavirus-related calls was received at the control room on March 10. Once the calls increased, call-takers were briefed about how to handle them, said Singh.

Another operator told The Indian Express, “Before the lockdown, people complained about malls being open or restaurants allowing people to eat in the premises. We have also received calls about how some stores are selling hand wash or sanitisers at a higher rate. We have been instructed to send the PCR van and local police in all these cases.”

“Apart from this, a common complaint is about neighbours who have returned from abroad and are going about their daily routine. In such cases, we send the CATS ambulance along with PCR van to ensure law and order. We have also received calls from people who feel like they need to get tested; in such cases, we inform the CATS ambulance. We also guide them to the coronavirus helpline number, 1075,” said the operator.

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