Tanáiste Leo Varadkar has said the HSE and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly are looking at using vaccine passes to allow people to visit their loved ones in hospitals.
The measure was first flagged by Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan in his letter to Minister Donnelly a number of weeks ago when he mentioned the vaccine pass system may be used for people visiting nursing homes.
Mr Varadkar has also revealed the Government is looking at how they can give unvaccinated people access to services which require vaccine passes.
But this will only be allowed for those who have a “practical reason” for not getting the jab – those who can’t due to a medical reason, or if an individual was advised not to get a second dose after they had a reaction to the jab.
It will not apply to people who just refuse to take a Covid-19 vaccine, Mr Varadkar indicated.
Speaking at Government Buildings on Wednesday, the Fine Gael leader said the vaccine pass for hospital visits “makes a lot of sense.”
He said: “Anything we can do to reduce the risk of the virus being introduced into hospitals makes sense to me.
“It [vaccine passes] could facilitate safe visits because nobody wants to be responsible for bringing the virus into a ward or hospital..
“Hospitals are full of people who are immunocompromised and are full of people with the virus as well..anything we can do to reduce the risk of the virus.”
He said the HSE and Minister Donnelly are “now working at operationalizing that and making it practical.”
The Tanáiste also indicated that the Government is looking at how they can test people who are unable to get a second vaccine dose or get a jab at all due to medical reasons.
Mr Varadkar said: “There are a relatively small group of people who can’t get the vaccine for a particular reason, or some people who got the first dose and had an adverse reaction, and have been advised not to get the second.”
But the Tanáiste said this would not apply to people who just refuse to get a Covid jab.
He explained that people are entitled not to get a Covid-19 vaccine or carry a vaccine pass but when “you impact other people’s safety” then it’s different.
He said: “I respect the right of conscientious objectors not to be vaccinated, not to carry a vaccine pass.
“That is their choice.
“But where our choices impact other people, that’s different.
“So for example, if you’re going into a setting where you could potentially introduce the virus, that’s about more than your rights, you have to consider other people’s rights too.
“My natural instincts like most people in government are towards civil liberties.
“I’d much rather we didn’t have to have this Pass system at all.
“And I’d much rather if it was gone by now.
“We had hoped it would be gone by now.”
The Tanáiste also said an expert advisory group on antigen testing have advised the Government that the best use antigen testing is for people to use it as a sel