Health Ministry WhatsApp hotline on public smoking out of order?

The Ministry of Health’s WhatsApp number people could post pictures of the perpetrators and send their location for ministry officials to take action appears to have been last active on May 28. — AFP pic
The Ministry of Health’s WhatsApp number people could post pictures of the perpetrators and send their location for ministry officials to take action appears to have been last active on May 28. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, June 19 ― A WhatsApp number meant to enable people to report smokers who flout the Ministry of Health’s (MoH) ban against smoking in restaurants and other public areas appears to have stopped working.

The number 010-8608949 where people could post pictures of the perpetrators and send their location for ministry officials to take action appears to have been last active on May 28, based on Malay Mail’s check today.

A test message sent to that number only showed “one tick” instead of the usual “double tick” to indicate the message was successfully sent. Double ticks in blue indicate the message has been read.

“I’m not sure why it’s been down, maybe people were reporting it,” a ministry staff told Malay Mail when contacted on its 03-8892-4530 landline.

The staff asked for anonymity as he is not authorised to speak on behalf of the ministry.

He added that he did not know the nature of the complaints and hazarded a guess that it could be due to the content, which caused WhatsApp to suspend the account.

“We’re in the process of getting that line up and running again but I don’t know when that will be.

“In the meantime, the public can call us on this landline or send their complaints along with the pictures through regular SMS,” the staff said.

Malay Mail has reached out to MoH for an official response.

Malay Mail also reached out to the WhatsApp service in an email and received this response: “We understand you're currently unable to access WhatsApp and are working diligently to answer your request. We appreciate your patience and will get back to you as soon as possible.”

The MoH initiated a smoking ban at restaurants and other food and beverage outlets on January 1.

However, enforcement has been suspended while it seeks to educate the public about the new rules.

A grace period was initially set for six months before summonses would be issued, but has since been extended to end December 2019.

Once the grace period ends, those found breaking the law may be fined up to RM10,000 or jailed a maximum two years.

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