Extra online options for Covid-19 cert queries ready ‘in coming weeks’

Helpline handled just over 5,300 of 54,500 calls it received on Monday and Tuesday

Amid high demand on the helpline the Department of Health has promised to bring in additional online forms and automation for people with queries about certificates. File photograph: Getty

Amid high demand on the helpline the Department of Health has promised to bring in additional online forms and automation for people with queries about certificates. File photograph: Getty

 

Extra online options for people with queries about Digital Covid Certificates for travel are to be made available in the coming weeks as the helpline continues to fail to meet demand.

There have been widespread complaints of wait times running into hours and the Government has asked that only those with plans to travel abroad within 10 days try to call.

The helpline – which now has more than 90 staff – is still catering for less than 10 per cent of the calls it is getting. Just 5,374 were handled by staff out of the 54,500 attempts to get through on Monday and Tuesday.

The European Union’s certificate system allows for travel within the bloc for people who have been fully vaccinated, have recovered from Covid-19 within six months, or have had a negative test result pre-departure.

Amid high demand on the helpline the Department of Health has promised to bring in additional online forms and automation for people with queries about certs so as to make the service “more accessible”. The department did not offer a precise timeline for when they will be introduced, other than to say it will be in the “coming weeks”.

The additional online forms will complement an existing portal for people to seek recovery certs if they have had the virus within the last 180 days.

It handled 10,500 such requests in its first three days of operation.

Long waiting times

A department spokeswoman said the new online forms will allow members of the public to make changes to their cert where there are inaccuracies. There is also to be “additional automation” for requesting of vaccination certificates.

“We know there have been very long waiting times for many callers and the centre has not been able to meet the level of demand,” said spokeswoman said.

She said the level of calls “far exceeds estimates of call centre demand based on an assessment of travel bookings and survey, or insights data, on travel intentions that Government or industry have access to”.

She also noted that the cert is now being used as proof of vaccination or recovery for indoor hospitality services in the Republic. The department could not say how many calls to the helpline had been related to certs for indoor dining

“Call agents cannot verify if someone is contacting the helpline in relation to a certificate for access to indoor dining,” she said.

“The recorded introduction message now reminds callers that proof of vaccination for the purposes of indoor dining includes the HSE issued vaccination card,” she added.

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