At least five people have so far been arrested in different parts of the country for allegedly abusing the lines with “insult and prank calls.” Those arrested were paraded to the media at Remera metropolitan, on Thursday.
RNP spokesperson, Commissioner of Police (CP) John Bosco Kabera warned that anyone, who obstructs national emergency response efforts to save lives, will be located and brought to justice.
“Operations have started; we have so far arrested five and we are still locating others, who call 114 (Coronavirus line) and 112 (general emergency line) just to disrupt and insult people charged with facilitating national efforts against the pandemic of coronavirus and other security and health related emergency services,” CP Kabera warned.
“Some disruptive calls are made by children using their parents’ phones. Others are people, who are drunk, whose who just call and don’t speak at all and those who call just to abuse people. These are unlawful actions, which are punishable by law.”
Obstructing and disrupting such services is punishable under law number 24/2016 of 18/06/2016 governing information and communication technologies, especially in its article 201, which refers to degradation or denial of services; and article 35 of law No. 60/2018 of 22/08/2018 on prevention and punishment of cybercrimes to anyone, who has caused service degradation, failure and interruption.
Actions under article 35 attracts imprisonment of between six months and two years and a fine of between Rwf1 million and Rwf2 million.
According to ACP Elie Mberabagabo, the Head of Command and Coordination Centre, COVID-19 Call Centre has since received over 364000 calls, since its establishment, of which only 16.2% are related to the pandemic.
“We have so far received more than 364, 000 calls, of which 86.5% were answered. However, we have the challenge of unnecessary calls, some of which are pranks and abusive thus obstructing those with genuine reasons to call,” said ACP Mberabagabo.
“For example, of all the calls received, 13.5% (49, 113) were dropped; meaning these are people who just call and keep quiet, while 56.1% (209, 361) are just pranks and abusive calls. We also received other calls inquiring on other infectious diseases which account for 14.2%,” ACP Mberabagabo added.
The COVID-19 Call Centre was upgraded to the capacity of 90 calls received simultaneously with four shifts working day and night, while the Emergency Call Centre receives 30 people at once.
“When this pandemic broke out, we were overwhelmed by the calls especially the 112 emergency line. Today, we are happy to note that we have the capacity to receive all calls and to link the caller with responders,” ACP Mberabagabo explained.
“When we receive a call, we assess it and immediately connect that person to the nearest service provider. We are connected with the COVID-19 Command Post and health facilities meant to respond, and each call related COVID-19 we receive, we connect that person to the nearest health facility, but we also follow to ensure that the case was effectively handled.”
Fulgence Kamali, who is in charge of Call Centre at the COVID-19 Command Post, said that many positive cases for COVID-19, have been located and responded to with the help of the Call Centre.
“Some people, who call 114 inquiring about their health, have turned out to be positive. It is most likely that these people tried to call before but they were obstructed by such disruptive calls,” Kamali said.
He further advised the public not to go to any health facility when they suspect to be infected with COVID-19, but rather call 114.
“When you go to the hospital, it’s likely that you will infect others in the process. We advise you to call 114 and special medical teams will find you wherever you will be to prevent the spread of the virus,” Kamali said.
Meanwhile, CP Kabera urged parents to be responsive against children, who use their phones to make unnecessary and abusive calls.
He further urged the public to give no ears to people that attempt to drive them astray with lies that they can cure COVID-19.
“Follow the government guidelines to fight and prevent COVID-19, and get effective health services when you are infected, but also report those who attempt to hamper the national efforts with such lies,” CP Kabera said.