Warning after 'several hundred' people from Republic try to book Covid jabs in Northern Ireland
HUNDREDS of people from the Republic desperate to get the Covid jab are booking online appointments in Northern Ireland even though they are not eligible.
Sources say the practice has been ongoing for weeks as EU supply issues continue to stall the rollout of the vaccine south of the border.
Such is the level of concern that the head of the north's vaccine programme, Patricia Donnelly, yesterday warned that people will be "turned away" if do not do fulfil the criteria.
Ms Donnelly also confirmed that the booking system is now open for the SSE Arena site - where up to 8,000 people will be vaccinated every day - ahead of its opening next Monday.
It is understood "several hundred" adults from the Republic have tried to book slots as the delivery of the Covid jabs continue at pace across the north's regional centres and GP surgeries.
Sources also say that by the end of today, almost half of Northern Ireland's adult population will have received their first coronavirus dose.
Just over 10 per cent of the Republic's population have got their first jab, with the temporary suspension of the AstraZeneca doses earlier this month also impacting on the rollout's pace.
A major spike in cases has led to warnings from health officials that the situation is on a "knife edge" in the south, with proposals to introduce "enhanced restrictions" and more testing in counties hit by rocketing cases.
Offaly has the highest infection rate, followed by Longford, Kildare and Dublin.
While there has been an increase in the number of children testing positive for the virus, the Republic's data shows this is not linked to schools - with outbreaks in schools "very low" compared to community settings.
Meanwhile, Ms Donnelly said her team had noticed increasing numbers of ineligible people attempting to book appointments, "including those from the Republic".
"Check before you book. Do not make a wasted journey. You will not be vaccinated unless you are eligible. Do not waste your time and the precious time of centre staff," she said.
"We anticipate the booking system will be extremely busy, so please be patient when you are booking your slot."
Health trusts have put special arrangements in place for the homeless, asylum seekers and British residents currently staying in Northern Ireland.
If booking a vaccine, you must have:
- a Northern Ireland HSC number.
- be registered with a Northern Ireland GP
- Produce photographic ID
- Only those in eligible groups will be vaccinated
If you have received multiple invitations, you only need to book once. If you have received a letter from your GP inviting you to book a vaccination with them, you should contact them directly.