Covid certificate helpline has average waiting time of 90 minutes plus

Portal for those seeking Covid-19 recovery certs had 5,300 requests since Friday

Digital Covid Certificates are being issued as part of an EU plan to reopen non-essential travel. They have been adapted to access indoor hospitality in Ireland.  Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Digital Covid Certificates are being issued as part of an EU plan to reopen non-essential travel. They have been adapted to access indoor hospitality in Ireland. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Average waiting times on the helpline for the Digital Covid Certificate for international travel were more than 90 minutes during its first week in operation.

Fewer than than 10 per cent of calls were eventually handled by staff.

A new online portal for people seeking DCCs to prove they have recovered from Covid-19 within the last six months saw more than 5,300 requests since Friday.

Callers to the helpline were still facing long waits on Monday, with Sinn Féin TD Claire Kerrane claiming it is an “absolute joke” after her own experience trying to access it.

The Roscommon-Galway TD was calling on behalf of a constituent – who was fully vaccinated but had not received their cert – who had to travel abroad for urgent family reasons.

Ms Kerrane said she got cut off while on hold during attempts to call the helpline and she spent about three hours and 40 minutes trying to get through.

She said the difficulties accessing the helpline are “outrageous” in urgent cases where people are not travelling for holidays.

Call agents

The Department of Health said the helpline had received more than 126,000 calls since July 19th. Of those calls, approximately 10,500 were handled by call agents – a rate of just over 8 per cent.

A department statement said that more than 85 agents were working on the helpline as of Friday, up from 55 earlier in the week.

It said that the interactive voice response (IVR) had been amended “to provide more information and signpost callers to other routes”. It also mentioned the recovery certificate portal was introduced late last week and it had handled more than 5,300 requests since Friday.

The statement said: “We are working to continuously improve the service offered to members of the public and, as with the recovery certificate portal, we are examining the introduction of additional self-service and automation in the coming weeks.”

‘Complex’ queries

It also said: “Average waiting times over the week are above 90 minutes, and average handling time is just under nine minutes. Call agents are working from 150 scripts given the unique and complex nature of the queries presenting.”

It said that, overall, a total of 2.3 million certs had been issued to date.

The Government last week appealed to people not to call the helpline unless they planned to travel within 10 days.

Digital Covid Certificates are being issued as part of a European Union plan to reopen non-essential travel within the union, though they have also been adapted for use to access indoor hospitality in Ireland.

They provide proof that a person has been fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 within the last six months and have built up immunity as a result of catching the virus.

The department said 10,100 cert request cases resulted from the 10,500 calls handled by agents. It said some individual calls result in the issue of more than one cert, for instance in the case of families.

The rest of the queries were said to be “general inquiry calls or no-action-needed calls”.