Covid 19 coronavirus: Surge in calls to Healthline

There has been a massive surge in people calling Healthline today – with one person being told there was more than a four-hour wait to get Covid-related health advice.

The increase in demand for the service comes after the Government confirmed there were three Covid-19 community cases and moved Auckland to alert level 3 and the rest of the country to alert level 2 at midnight on Sunday.

One caller – who had cold-like symptoms – called the hotline at 11.49am today to learn the wait time was 265 minutes.

They called back forty minutes later and there were 337 people on hold and a wait time of 173 minutes.

At 3pm the call wait time to the service was less than 15 minutes and when the Herald called a few hours later it was down to about four minutes and 37 people were also in the queue.

National Telehealth Service chief executive Andrew Slater said call volumes to Healthline had been four times busier than usual since the Prime Minister’s announcement on Sunday night.

The service was also focused on increasing staffing to meet the demand.

Healthline answered 2,335 calls between midnight and 3pm. An additional 1,000 callers received the information they needed by using the self-serve options available.

Almost 90 per cent of these calls were non-clinical in nature. For example, from people seeking information relating to regional geographical borders.

“We ask people to be patient, and to call back later if they can’t get through immediately,” he said.

“To help us respond to callers needing answers to clinical questions, we ask that people refer to the Ministry of Health website for information on geographical boundary information and to Health Point for information regarding test centres.”

Following the announcement of a community case in Northland in January, the average call wait time was up to 38 minutes. In December 2020, the average wait time for the Covid Information Line in December 2020 was 1 minute and 6 seconds.

The Government has advised anyone who was at the locations at the same time as the South Auckland family and are considered casual plus contacts or those experiencing Covid-19 like symptoms to isolate and contact Healthline for further advice.

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