As lockdowns and travel restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19 have gradually eased over the past three months, we have been able to reopen many of our visa application centres around the world. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over and we are taking every precaution we can to allow us to continue processing visas at our centres while ensuring the safety of our customers and employees.
A dedicated COVID-19 taskforce
A cross-functional team of people from across TLScontact has worked on detailed guidelines that all our centres must follow before reopening. The guidelines are based on the experience of our colleagues in China, who were the first to have to deal with the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus early in the year.
Read the article Managing COVID-19: Our experience in China.
The measures put in place are in line with local health authority requirements and the latest World Health Organisation directives. As the situation evolves, we continue to monitor and adjust them as and when necessary, communicating widely to our operational staff and to our visa customers.
New requirements to protect our customers and our staff
Since reopening, new rules have been introduced for all those entering our visa application centres: visa applicants, employees and third parties. A temperature measure must be taken at the entrance of our centre by one of our security guards, using a temperature gun. Face masks are obligatory inside our centres and hand sanitisers have been placed in key locations, for use by applicants and staff whenever necessary.
Ensuring social distancing inside our centres
The customer journey inside our centres has been reviewed and revised to reduce the touchpoints between agents and applicants. Where possible, the process has been adapted, with certain process steps gathered into one to reduce contact with VAC staff and respect the minimum required distance between people. In order to protect against potential virus-bearing aerosol diffusion, plexiglass protective screens have also been installed at our welcome desks, documentation counters and in the biometrics booths. We have reduced daily capacity at our centres, with only a restricted number of applicants allowed inside at the same time, depending on the size of our premises. We have also spread out the seating in waiting areas and introduced queue management measures, with floor stickers to remind people of the minimum distances to be respected.
Regular cleaning of premises and equipment
In all our visa application centres, the cleaning process has been reviewed and adapted to limit the risk of virus transmission. Desk surfaces are disinfected after use by each individual applicant and frequent cleaning is carried out on chairs, floors and other cleanable surfaces. All surfaces that are in contact with people and could carry potential infections are also cleaned at least every 2 hours. This includes bathrooms, computers available in self-service areas (screens and keyboards), passport photo booths and vending machines. Training has been carried out to ensure that all TLScontact staff and cleaning contractors clearly understand the measures required and implement them correctly.
COVID-19 is an unprecedented crisis, which has had a particularly strong impact on the travel sector. As borders gradually reopen and international travel slowly resumes, it is our responsibility to reassure our visa customers that, as they prepare for their trip, they can submit their visa applications in a safe and secure environment.