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February 19, 2020

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Hotline a hit with foreign residents in virus battle

BY calling the Shanghai Call Center at 962288, a hotline dedicated to providing information for foreigners in Shanghai, foreigners can make inquiries about masks, current coronavirus containment efforts and other information concerning the epidemic.

Statistics show around 100,000 foreigners have stayed in Shanghai despite the coronavirus outbreak, with no cases reported among them so far.

During the Spring Festival holiday, the hotline received thousands of inquiries, most of which were about buying masks.

“When communicating with foreigners, it is very important to speak accurately,” said Sarah Leanne Sharman, a British who has worked in Shanghai for five years.

As Sharman can speak both English and Chinese, she is responsible for helping call center agents when they have difficulties in English language communication and understanding. The 36-year-old has been busy explaining to her Chinese colleagues the proper nouns about coronavirus used by the World Health Organization in the past few days.

Apart from 24-hour English services, the hotline also provides services in French, Japanese, German, Russian, Spanish and Arabic. Agents receiving calls teach foreigners how to make appointments for buying masks and how to prepare for materials required for the appointments.

It has been a tough job for a cosmopolitan city like Shanghai to take virus control measures such as providing citizens with enough masks, considering its population of 24 million.

The Shanghai government encouraged local mask factories to resume operations and expand capacity, offering financial support such as rent reduction and tax incentives for enterprises that have contributed to the fight against the epidemic.

Some Shanghai citizens volunteered to work night shifts at mask factories while firms in other industries, including soybean product manufacturers and repurposed workshops, have added new mask production lines.

But instead of scrambling to buy masks and watching TV flooded with coronavirus-related news, what locals really want is for the fight against the coronavirus to see a turnaround, life to return to normal and to finally enjoy a deep breath outdoors without masks.

“For me, the first thing I will do after the epidemic is to go out for dinner and take my dog to the park,” said Sharman.


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