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Tuesday 3 October 2023 Dublin: 14°C
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'Constantly engaged': Callers vent frustration amid 'issues' with Digital Covid Cert call centre
Tourism Minister Catherine Martin has said there have been “issues” with the helpline.

CALLERS HAVE BEEN venting frustration at the Department of Health’s Digital Covid Certificate (DCC) helpline with many reporting that they cannot get through to an operator. 

The helpline went fully operational today as part of Ireland’s adoption of the EU-wide DCC system from, with the department saying it has been “handling a very high volume of calls”. 

The DCC is a standardised EU system which allows people to travel across member states without quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated, have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months or have recently tested negative. 

People who are fully vaccinated should get their cert without requesting one, either by post or by email, but people who are entitled to one after recovering from the virus are being asked to contact the call centre to secure one.

The call centre is also being used for people who are entitled to a DCC through vaccination but have not yet received one and also for general queries. 

Despite the call centre being advertised from today, numerous people have reported being unable to get through while others have reported wait times of up to two hours. 

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A number of calls made by The Journal to the helpline were not connected and instead an error tone was heard on the line. 

One caller having issues told The Journal that their fully-vaccinated mother was due to visit them in Brussels tomorrow, but that she hasn’t yet received her DCC and can’t get through to the helpline. 

She tried the helpline all day and nothing drove up to her GP who said they would write her a letter.

A reader of The Journal’s coronavirus newsletter got in touch and said: 

I’ve been trying to do this all day and so far I’ve spent a total of three hours plus on hold. I’m not sure if there is a special problem with this line or simply thousands of callers. 

A third who spoke to The Journal said they had tried over the weekend to access the helpline and that the automatic voice message on the line informing them to call back on Monday has not changed today.

“I’ve called at 8.30am and randomly throughout the day and it was saying the exact same thing,” they said.

When you ring itself it says your call cannot be connected, it could just be a mobile provider issue but it’s been consistent all day. It was active last week because I was able to get through.

A temporary call centre for people who had queries relating to the DCC sent out them was online last week and received about 4,000 calls on its first day. 

Most of the people who called up did not stay on the line to speak to one of the operators, with government officials saying they “were hoping” the callers got the information they needed on the recorded voice message. 

Last week’s temporary call centre was staffed by 25-30 operators but the official helpline starting today was to have 60-90 operators dealing with all aspects of the system. 

The call centre will be operated from Ireland but some of the agents may be in the UK. 

In a statement to The Journal this afternoon, the Department of Health has said it is seeking to increase capacity on the line.  

“The Digital Covid Certificate Service Centre is currently handling a very high volume of calls and delays may be experienced by members of the public trying to contact the centre,” a spokesperson said. 

We are currently working to increase the capacity of the service centre. The helpline number is 1800 851 504 and is for queries relating to your vaccination certificate and/or requesting your recovery certificate. 

Tourism Minister Catherine Martin also acknowledged today that there have been “issues” with the helpline. 

“Today is the reopening of international travel, and there have been issues with the helpline, but I can assure you the government is working very hard in order to get that system back up and running as quickly as possible,” she said. 

Minister of State Ossian Smyth also tweeted today about the issues, saying that “it is important to remember that the DCC is not essential for travelling, you can still travel on your vaccine card or a negative PCR test.”

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