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Police Investigate 48-Year-Old Man And 45-Year-Old Woman For Allegedly Instigating Others To Overwhelm Public Hotlines With Calls

The Police are investigating a 48-year-old man and a 45-year-old woman for their alleged involvement in instigating others to call and overwhelm public hotlines which, among other services provided, help the public with COVID-19 issues. These include the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Quality Service/Feedback hotline, the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s (MSF) hotline and the National CARE Hotline. [1][2][3]

On 18 October 2021, the Police received a report alleging that the duo had incited more than 2,000 members in a Telegram group to overwhelm public hotlines through sharing their feedback on the stricter COVID-19 measures for unvaccinated people in public places. The message purportedly claimed that the Government was seeking “nationwide ground feedback on the new measures”, and that the public should call in to the MOH hotline, the MSF hotline and the National CARE Hotline, and demand that their feedback gets pushed up to the respective call centre managers. The members were also encouraged to call the hotlines again the following day, to seek feedback on the calls they had made earlier. As the alleged incitement to overwhelm public hotlines has the potential to obstruct the work of public servants, the Police, in consultation with the Attorney-General’s Chambers, are investigating the man and the woman for an alleged offence of abetment by instigation of persons to obstruct public servants in the discharge of their public functions under Section 186, read with Section 117 of the Penal Code.

The offence of obstructing public servants in the discharge of their public functions, is punishable with imprisonment of up to three months, a fine of up to $2,500, or both. The offence of abetting the commission of such an offence by the public generally, or by any number or class of persons exceeding ten is punishable with imprisonment of up to five years, a fine or both.

The Police will not hesitate to take action against irresponsible persons who disrupt and overwhelm essential call centre operations or encourage others to do so. These public hotlines are important channels for Singaporeans to seek help, and a surge in needless and malicious calls will lengthen waiting times and frustrate genuine callers. In some cases, such calls may also prevent those in need from receiving timely critical assistance. Offenders will be dealt with firmly and severely in accordance with the law.

[1] The MOH COVID-19 hotline (tel: 1800-333-9999) handles general queries related to COVID-19, including requests for help on vaccination, conveyancing to care facilities, medical needs of people under recovery, hospital visitation, and financial assistance.

[2] The MSF Hotline (tel: 1800-111-2222) is a consolidated hotline which allows convenient access to MSF's 16 existing hotlines under a single number. Members of the public can call this line for financial assistance, divorce support, support for destitute persons and child protective services, to name a few.

[3] The National CARE Hotline (tel: 1800-202-6868) was set up by MSF and MOH in 2020, at the start of the Circuit Breaker, to provide crucial psychological first aid and emotional support to those who have been affected by COVID-19. Callers who require further psychological help are referred to public healthcare institutions or community service providers for follow-up.


25 November 2021 @ 3:07 PM
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