'It's not a helpline if it doesn't help': Author spent 13 hours on hold with Covid cert helpline

'It's not a helpline if it doesn't help': Author spent 13 hours on hold with Covid cert helpline

Sarah Rees Brennan was due to travel to Malta but was stopped from travelling, as the country only accepts the EU Digital Covid Certificate. File photo

A Dublin-based writer, who spent 13 hours on hold on the Covid Certificate helpline, says she doesn't know where to turn next.

Sarah Rees Brennan, a cancer survivor, has been fully vaccinated since May as she is in a high-risk group.

She was due to travel to Malta but was stopped from travelling, as the country only accepts the EU Digital Covid Certificate.

Ms Rees-Brennan was on hold for six-and-a-half-hours when she first contacted the helpline but said it was worth the wait when she got through and was told she would have her cert within a week.

After a number of days passed and she still had not received it, she tried to use the online portal when it was introduced on July 31.

Following eight attempts to gain access to the portal, Ms Rees-Brennan was met with a message that said: "We can't issue your Digital Certificate of Vaccination at this time. This may be because we are missing some relevant data related to your vaccination record."

The message advised that she should use the helpline for further assistance.

The writer kept her Twitter followers up-to-date on the long wait as she passed the hours on hold with good humour.

"I call the helpline. It has been four hours now! We have always been on hold. I see it all now. They jest with me, these Covid certificate minxes."

Six-and-a-half hours later, Ms Rees Brennan was connected with a helpline operator, she followed the advice given and the wait began once again.

Sarah Rees Brennan criticised the helpline for giving out misinformation to those who rang seeking guidance as she said she was told the negative PCR test would be accepted. Picture: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
Sarah Rees Brennan criticised the helpline for giving out misinformation to those who rang seeking guidance as she said she was told the negative PCR test would be accepted. Picture: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

According to the portal, they had matched her information to an ongoing case in their system. A message said the certificate was being processed and would be with her within five working days.

However, the following day a message on the portal said her details could not be found on the recovery system and was once again directed to the helpline for assistance.

Two days later, the YA fantasy fiction writer returned with yet another update.

"After being on hold for 13 hours, assured by two people all would be well if I did what they said, having changed flights twice already, armed with certificate of negative PCR test and HSE card, was just turned away by boarding Ryanair," she said.

According to the 37-year-old, the delays with Covid vaccination certs have occurred with many people who were vaccinated as part of the high-risk cohort.

She criticised the helpline for giving out misinformation to those who rang seeking guidance as she said she was told the negative PCR test would be accepted.

Although she was planning to travel for a holiday, she pointed out that many others among the high-risk group are attempting to travel to visit family they haven't seen in over a year.

"Everyone on the helpline was nice but the system is broken. It's not a helpline if it doesn't help," said Ms Rees Brennan.

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