Hundreds who turned up for their booster shot at UCD on Saturday morning were turned away because of long queues and delays on the university campus.
The UCD Gerard Manly Building vaccination centre was due to open its doors at 9am, but such was the queue that it opened at 7.50am. The centre is administering booster vaccines to those aged between 50 and 69 and healthcare workers.
UCD site manager Hugh Kane said there were already more than 50 people in the queue when he arrived at 6.45am. There are 10 booths in operation with a capacity of 120 an hour.
By 9.15am, there were 472 people awaiting the booster, according to Mr Kane’s headcount. Anyone else who arrived after this time was turned away while those at the back of the queue were told they would have to wait four hours to get their booster vaccination.
“We are not in a position to take anybody else at this stage as we have booked appointments in the afternoon,” he said.
Long queues were also reported at City Hall in Cork and at the CityWest vaccination centre in Dublin. There were queues at the vaccination centre in Kilkenny city an hour before it was due to open at 9am.
Early arrivals at UCD waited for two hours to get vaccinated. "I was here on Thursday and I was turned away so I was there at 7.30am," said Maura Lynch. "There was about 150 people in front of me. It's a relief to get my booster shot."
Blanaid Mehigan complained that an official said her vaccination certificate could not be read. "He let 20 people through when I was queuing. A girl who is going to Argentina was out by a day was turned away. I don't understand it. It's a bloody flu shot," said Ms Mehigan.
Many people who thought they had arrived early were turned away. “I’m frustrated. This is clearly not working properly,” said Karen O’Sullivan, who arrived just after 9am.
“We are being criticised for not taking the flu shot, yet you can see the enthusiasm and the commitment here today. I don’t mind two hours waiting, but to wait and be told it is not going to happen is disappointing.”
Asked about contact tracing among passengers arriving into Irish airports over the coming weeks, HSE chief executive Paul Reid said all passengers on flights with a confirmed case of the Omicron variant which has arrived from a designated country of concern will be contact traced under new public health measures updated by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.
If a case of Covid-19 that is not suspected to be Omicron is confirmed on a flight arriving from one of these designated countries, passengers within two rows in all directions of the individual with the virus will be contacted traced, he said.
If there are two non-Omicron suspected cases, the whole flight will be contract traced, he said. The same measures will be in place if one case of the Omicron variant is detected.
Asked whether some visitors could end up stuck in quarantine for Christmas, Mr Reid urged the public to stay tuned to Government messaging on the issue.