Shanghai hotline answers coronavirus questions for expats
Global Times


The Shanghai Call Center (SHCC) hotline interpreters answer calls from expats aimed the COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo: Global Times)

The Shanghai Call Center (SHCC), a nonprofit hotline platform serving expats in Shanghai, answers over 50 calls per day during the fight against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pneumonia, which has caused 318 confirmed cases and one death in the city as of 9 pm Friday.

Established in 2006, the platform helps foreigners who have daily problems or questions in Shanghai, with interpreters working in 13 languages: English, Japanese, Korean, German, Russian, French, Spanish, Malay, Bahasa Indonesia, Portuguese, Arabic, Italian and Yugoslavian.

The hotline is available during the epidemic at the number 962288, said SHCC Director Yue Di. 

English-speaking interpreters are on service 24 hours a day. Japanese, Korean and French interpreters are available from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm, and other languages from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm.

Epidemic-related inquires

Where and how to buy masks is one of the questions that foreigners ask most via the hotline, Yue said.

Shanghai has made it compulsory to register at nearby residential communities to buy masks since February 2, which has made some foreigners in the city confused. 

"They have no idea what residential communities are, nor do they know which residential community they should go to for registration," Yue told the Global Times Friday.

SHCC staffers help foreigners find the right residential communities based on their addresses, and tell them what materials they should bring for registration. 

"To raise the efficiency of our service, we have specifically collected information of all the several thousand residential communities across Shanghai," Yue said.

Questions related to flights and visas are frequently asked as well. 

Wanyan Shaohua, an interpreter at SHCC, has received lots of inquiries about recent canceled flights as some countries and regions have suspended their flights to Shanghai due to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

"Many call to ask when the flights will resume," Wanyan said, adding that she would first contact the airlines to give the inquirers an official response. "If the resumption time remains uncertain, I will explain to them and ask them to wait patiently."

There are also inquiries about whether foreigners can come to Shanghai in this period. Wanyan received a call from an expat with a business visa Thursday, who asked whether the city has banned nonlocals from entering. 

"After checking with the immigration inspection authority, I told him that he was able to come," Wanyan told the Global Times Friday.

Provide a platform

Virus, vaccine and infection have become SHCC interpreters' high frequency words these days, which they had seldom used at work before the COVID-19 outbreak.

The SHCC arranged for over 20 interpreters to be on duty during this Chinese New Year holiday to answer as many inquiries as possible, double the number in the same period last year, Yue said. "They are busy all day as some of the calls last several hours," he added.

Because of the language barrier, expats are less informed than locals of the epidemic as well as the city's current policies related to it, Yue said. "Therefore, it is important to provide them with a platform to ask questions and seek help, which may ease their confusion and anxiety about the epidemic."

At least it is comforting for foreigners to have someone to talk with in their native language in this special time, he added.