Widespread closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has left thousands of Canadians out of work. As a result, many are turning to Service Canada to apply for compensation. However, the mad dash to collect EI in Canada has led to long waits and tied up phone lines, putting extra strain on the government agency.

According to CTV, lineups began to form outside Service Canada locations in the GTA on Tuesday morning.

The outlet also shared photos of the scene outside the College and Bathurst location. Thankfully, those in line appeared to keep their social distance.

Service Canada posted a notice on their website warning all residents who plan to apply for EI in-person to "respect social distancing."

"Upon arrival, you will be asked to wait outside of the office until we can safely serve you, and you will be required to respect social distancing," the notice states.

According to CTV, several people claimed they had attempted to apply through other methods but "experienced problems" and decided to get help in person.

Applicants have taken to Twitter to report issues with the online application and busy phone lines. One person claimed they had been put on hold for hours before getting disconnected.

"I filed a report online and was asked for more information, and the phone line is literally the only option provided. I was in hold for two hours yesterday before my call was dropped and have called at least a dozen times today and was never put in the cue. What do I do?" another person wrote.

Service Canada issued a statement addressing the issue on Tuesday. It stated that the agency has been experiencing "higher than normal call volumes" due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

"Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we are experiencing higher than normal call volumes. We encourage you to use self-serve options to access our programs and services, including EI, online," reads the statement.

"We ask Canadians for their patience at this time so that we can focus our efforts on the most vulnerable Canadian population," the agency wrote.

The government agency also acknowledged that it had been experiencing technical difficulties, which was causing both its call centres and website to go offline.

"We're working to get the NSLSC call centre and website back up as quickly as possible. We're very sorry for the inconvenience," Service Canada tweeted. 

Narcity has reached out to Service Canada for their response to the service disruptions. We will update the story once we hear back.

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