‘Extreme pressure’ on vaccine pass system as holidaymakers struggle

A vaccine certification scheme for travellers was under “extreme pressure” yesterday as holidaymakers struggled with the “interim” system put in place by the Stormont health department.

Friday, 23rd July 2021, 6:28 pm

In England, prospective tourists can use an ‘NHS Covid Pass’ available through a smartphone app, the NHS website, or a posted letter.

But the devolved administrations, including Northern Ireland, are still working on their own solutions.

The Stormont health department’s system is still not fully up-and-running but an interim scheme allowing travellers to download a certificate went live earlier this month.

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But some people have experienced “difficulties”.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “The interim vaccine certification system is currently under extreme pressure and users are asked to be patient.

“We are aware that some users are experiencing difficulties and we are working at pace to find a resolution to these issues.

“We are reacting to changing entry requirements being imposed by countries which may impact travellers. These changes are outside our control but we are committed to finding solutions that are workable for all.”

Meanwhile, the recent surge in coronavirus infections has continued.

There were 1,337 new cases reported yesterday, while the number of people in hospital with the virus rose to 163 — one of the highest totals reported since late March and nearly 10 times higher than the middle of last month.

There was one new virus death reported yesterday.

With the surge of extra patients placing a burden on alread-stretched hospitals, the Belfast Trust announced yesterday that it had “taken the difficult decision to postpone non-time critical elective orthopaedic surgery”.

The Trust’s medical director, Mr Chris Hagan, said: “We would like to apologise to those patients and families affected by this decision, it is not one we wanted to make and we appreciate the anxiety it will cause. However, this is the only way we can ensure safe staffing levels for patients who are most acutely ill, whilst allowing regional complex surgery to continue at Belfast City Hospital.”

Mr Hagan also revealed most of the patients being admitted still haven’t had their vaccines.

“In addition we have identified that 60% of patients admitted with Covid-19 symptoms are not vaccinated,” he said. “It is therefore vital that everyone eligible receives the vaccination as soon as possible by using the booking system or calling into one of the many drop in centres this weekend.”