911 calls diverted to local call centers as 2 staff contract COVID-19: Interior dep't


Posted at Aug 30 2020 02:49 PM

MANILA - Calls to emergency hotline 911 are temporarily diverted to local call centers after 2 of its agents tested positive for the coronavirus, the Department of the Interior and Local Government said Sunday.

The two employees are in isolation and recovering from the disease, according to E911 executive director Diosdado Valeroso. 

All of the agency's Emergency Telecommunicators (ETCs) and 10 of the health department's COVID-19 hotline agents are also under home quarantine, according to DILG spokesperson and Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya.

The 911 National Call Center (NCC) is being disinfected and contact tracing is being conducted, he added.

"All of our personnel have undergone PCR tests, are currently under home quarantine, and will return to work as soon as they test negative or have completed the 14-day quarantine,” Malaya said in a statement.

The E911 eyes to resume partial operations by Sep. 7 and full operations by Sep. 16, he added.

Seventeen additional ETCs from the Bureau of Fire Protection, another attached agency of the DILG, were supposed to augment E911 personnel, but 2 of them also contracted the virus so their deployment was suspended, according to Malaya. 

The hotline is exploring work-from-home arrangements for some personnel, Malaya said, as he appealed to the public for understanding over delays in the handling of rerouted calls.

The calls are diverted to only 8 local call centers, he said.

The hotline was already overwhelmed even before the pandemic with only 80 staff nationwide working in shifts to answer calls, Valeroso said, citing 18.482 million calls received in 2019.

It further increased when the E911 National Call Center began receiving COVID-related calls in a partnership with the Department of Health since March, Valeroso added.

The DOH also launched separate hotlines for COVID-19 medical advice and health concerns unrelated to the virus: 02-894-COVID (02-894-26843) and 1555.