It was a wet start to the week for the dozens of people waiting outside a passport office on Monday morning. The queues were so long that people brought camping chairs – clearly in anticipation of being there for hours.
It happened in Liverpool, where the office is situated in Old Hall Street, and queues stretched along the road. People sheltered under umbrellas a the rain came down, reports the LiverpoolECHO.
Longer waits than usual for passports have been a problem in recent weeks, with a post-Covid rush for people to renew or get new ones, coupled with staffing issues. Although applications can be done online or at a Post Office, for those in urgent need a face-to-face appointment at an office is the only options.
The site in Liverpool is one of only seven in the UK. People were seen queuing from the early hours of this morning.
Last week, mum-of-two Natalie Price told the ECHO of her four month battle to get a first passport for her son, slamming the process and saying she had “never experienced anything so difficult”. Likewise, a family from Kirkby told the ECHO that their £3,000 holiday was in jeopardy as they were waiting in “limbo” for their baby’s first passport.
HM Passport Office has warned people of delays in passport applications due to “unprecedented demand”. Its website states: “There is no backlog in passport processing as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However, we are now seeing unprecedented demand as more than 5million people delayed applying for passports during Covid-19 because of restrictions in international travel.
“Her Majesty’s Passport Office (HMPO) anticipate 9.5million British passport applications will be made this year and in March 2022 alone, HMPO processed more than one million new passport applications, the highest output on record.
“In preparation for the demand for international travel returning, since April 2021 HMPO have been advising people to allow up to 10 weeks when applying for their British passport. This remains the case.”
Last week, Boris Johnson said passport waiting times had reduced dramatically. During Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Mr Johnson said the Government is “massively increasing the speed with which the Passport Office delivers”. He said, to the best of his knowledge, “everybody’s getting their passport within four to six weeks”.
In response, Louise Haigh, Labour’s shadow transport spokesperson, tweeted: “Did @BorisJohnson really just claim that ‘everyone is getting their passport back within 4-6 weeks’? The Passport Office’s own guidance won’t allow MPs to even contact them on behalf of our constituents until 10 weeks have passed.”