The breakdown assistance service recently announced that it would extend free assistance to elderly members of the public as well as healthcare staff for the duration of the COVID-19 shutdown. In the days since additional restrictions were introduced by the Government the AA has continued to attend to up to hundreds of breakdowns per day – many relating to callouts from the above priority groups. “Like many other businesses, we have looked to how we can assist those most at risk during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, while also assisting our own members who may experience a breakdown while undertaking essential trips to a shop or to deliver items to someone who is cocooning. At all times we are prioritising the safety of our staff and following HSE advice, but while breakdown numbers have dropped in recent days the callouts we are attending to now are largely of the utmost importance,” Conor Faughnan, AA Director of Consumer Affairs stated. We have poured all our resources into ensuring we can attend to vulnerable groups who may be reliant on their car at this time and to healthcare workers who are already doing so much for us all at this time.” “We have, of course, had to scale back our resources but their are still a limited number of staff in our offices who can assist elderly people who may be less comfortable using an app to report a breakdown, as well as supporting our existing customers in the healthcare sector or at risk groups who may need to renew an insurance policy with us. We are asking our other customers or anyone else looking to purchase an AA product to do so online to assist us in keeping our phone lines clear for these priority groups." On the first day of the new restrictions, Saturday March 28, the AA attended to a total of 137 breakdown callouts, with a further 108 breakdowns reported to the organisation on Sunday. However, Monday brought a significant increase in breakdown callouts with the AA attending to 250 incidents, slightly below the daily average of 258 for March but a noticeable drop from a daily average of 314 in February.
In contrast, on the final weekend before the new restrictions, the AA attended to 212 breakdowns on Saturday March 20, 149 breakdowns on Sunday March 21 and 284 breakdowns on Monday March 23. “From what our patrols are seeing most people are adhering to government advice and the majority of the breakdowns we are attending to would be classed as essential travel,” Faughnan added. “At the end of the day, the last thing that any nurse, doctor, or frontline healthcare worker needs at this point in time is to walk out at the end of their work day and find their only way of getting home struggling to start due to a battery fault or stuck in place due to a puncture.”