Public service hotline a lifeline for expats
Shanghai's 12345, a 24-hour government-run public service hotline, received more than 2,000 calls from foreigners last year following the launch of its multilingual services at the beginning of 2020. The majority sought help with COVID-19 prevention and control issues and lodging complaints about noise disturbances.
The hotline provides services in nine languages — English, Japanese, French, German, Italian, Persian, Korean, Russian and Spanish.
"Callers are from diverse countries such as the United States, Germany and France, with the majority speaking English," said Hua Wenai, head of the service's operation management. "As COVID-19 prevention and control policies are updated constantly, most inquiries concerned quarantine-related issues."
Many had questions about diet, hygiene and child care at hotels during quarantine periods.
"Some sought help from us when they had trouble communicating with staff at quarantine sites," said Hua.
In terms of complaints, construction noise topped the list, and some were related to smoking in public areas.
The hotline serves as a gateway for foreigners to contact specific service departments.
It normally takes up to five working days for uncomplicated affairs to be handled, while complicated matters can take up to 15 working days.
Many calls were fielded regarding Sui Shen Ma, the local health QR code that records health conditions and locations.
People sometimes sought translation service when being unable to communicate with taxi drivers.
The hotline also provides sign language video services, enabling the hearing-impaired to make inquiries, forward complaints and offer suggestions via cellphones and computers.