A woman trapped in the crisis on the waiting list for a Northern Ireland hospital may not be able to travel for essential surgery due to the wreckage of her Covid-19 passport.
the woman, who is due to travel to Lithuania on Sunday for a hip replacement, has so far been unable to obtain a Covid vaccine certificate to prove she is twice vaccinated.
She has been forced to travel abroad for surgery due to spiraling hospital waiting lists, which can see patients here wait up to 10 years for procedures to treat painful and debilitating conditions. .
However, the Northern Ireland Covid certification service has been plagued by a number of technical issues, so travelers traveling in the coming days do not know if they will have proof of their double vaccine.
As a result, they have to go out to Covid’s private tests, but the increase in demand causes many time slots to be reserved.
Sinead McLaughlin, a member of the SDLP, described the current situation as a “mess” and said the Department of Health should not have launched its Covid certificate application until it was ready.
“I was contacted on behalf of a local patient who the NHS has already let down due to excessive lists and waiting times,” he said.
“They are in physical difficulty, so they have organized a hip replacement surgery in Lithuania. Having made these arrangements and borne these costs, they are now anxious that they will not be able to travel.
“The uncertainty and chaos surrounding Covid certificates has made the situation much worse. There is no excuse to launch an application without it being fully tested and absolutely certain that it works and is resilient.
“The interim service should have been maintained so that a backup option would be maintained. It is essential that the Department of Health catch up on the situation urgently.”
The patient is one of hundreds of people believed to be affected by the latest error in the Department of Health’s vaccine certificate system.
The Covid certification program was launched on the NI Direct website as a way for travelers to apply for a vaccine certificate.
Last week, however, the service was shut down as a result of a technical problem, and the Department of Health issued a statement Thursday evening informing it that it would be available at 9 a.m. yesterday.
But people trying to log in to the system yesterday morning were greeted with an error message that said, “Our services are not available right now. We are working to restore all services as soon as possible.”
Frantic travelers complained that the helpline number did not work and there were no responses to queries sent by email.
Another message was posted stating: “The Northern Ireland Covid certification service will be available in the early afternoon of Friday 30 July for those traveling on 1 August 2021 in the first instance.
“Some applications will be processed manually and applicants will be contacted by email to find out what to do as they progress.
“Although the service has been resumed, it is being managed in a controlled and phased manner and will be strictly limited to outstanding dates.
“The first process will involve proof of identity, and then you will be notified when you apply for a certificate. More information will be given tomorrow for those traveling after August 1st.
“The Department of Health insists those traveling outside of Aug. 1 will not apply or will simply delay the full restoration of normal services.”
The Department of Health has been contacted for comment.