‘Vaccine certs’ may open up early access to sport events and concerts

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Vaccinated people may be able to attend concerts, sports events and restaurants ahead of those who have not received a jab under plans being considered by the Government.

ew digital vaccination certificates are set to become mandatory across the EU this summer and the Government is considering how they can be used in Ireland.

The introduction of Digital Green Certificates for EU citizens was proposed by the European Commission last month. The vaccine passport is to be debated in the European Parliament before, it is hoped, becoming EU law during the summer.

The certificates will be needed for travel within the EU but member states can decide how they are used within their own countries.

Senior Government sources said the certificates could be used to allow people attend events, concert or restaurants if restrictions had not already been lifted in those sectors.

There is interest at senior levels within Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in using the certificates to give vaccinated people more freedoms when society reopens in the coming months.

It is also hoped it would encourage those who may be hesitant of vaccines to sign up to the national vaccination programme. However, there has been a strong uptake of the vaccine in Ireland compared to other countries.

Sources also suggested the certs could encourage people to be safer in certain settings.

On Monday, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar published a video on Facebook in which he said vaccine certificates could “give more freedoms” to those who were vaccinated.

Last month, Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced two vaccinated households could now meet indoors while the country was under Level 5 lockdown.

Mr Martin previously suggested he was against the introduction of a so-called “vaccine bonus” for those who are vaccinated.

However, there now seems to be an increasing debate within Government about how the passports can be used once introduced by the EU.

“It could be a re-run of mask and antigen testing with Irish authorities adopting a conservative approach but eventually coming around,” a senior Government source said.

However, the source cautioned it was too early for any significant development.

The Government is also looking to Israel and Denmark, where vaccine certificates allow vaccinated people access to hairdressers, restaurants, gyms and cinemas.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued advice giving more freedoms to Americans who are vaccinated. Vaccinated US citizens can now resume domestic air travel, meet with unvaccinated households indoors and do not have to quarantine or get tested if they were exposed to someone with Covid-19.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also flagged the possibility of introducing vaccines certificates in Britain but has faced opposition from within his own party.

A UK government review into vaccination certificates found they could “potentially play a role” in settings such as theatres, nightclubs and mass events, and might also be used in pubs and restaurants to reduce social distancing restrictions.

In Ireland, businesses have been calling for vaccine certs to be introduced so they can open sooner.

The Irish Hairdressers Federation (IHF) asked the Government to allow them to reopen for fully vaccinated people before restrictions on personal services are lifted for the ­general public next month.

Other businesses have also lobbied the Government about allowing vaccinated people access their services.

European Affairs Minister Thomas Byrne attended a meeting of EU ministers in Portugal where the Digital Green Certificates were discussed.

“The certificates are expected to pass at a European level by July and we are committed to supporting that,” Mr Byrne said.

“The certificate will be interoperable between member states but what it is used for in individual members states will be a matter for the member states.

“Clearly public health will be the main focus and I don’t want to speculate on what else they may be used for but work is under way to ensure they are introduce,” he added.

The proposed digital certificates will indicate whether a person has been vaccinated and will also note whether they have recently recovered from Covid-19.

The certs will also be used to show a person has received a negative test before they left a country.

The Government has said 80pc of adults will have received their first vaccine by the end of June and more than 50pc will have had their ­second jab.

Source: Irish News