EVER since the emergence and worldwide distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, there's been light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
Slowly, but surely, the world is beginning to open up again following 12 months of on again, off again lockdowns, though it'll be many months before all those who want a vaccine will be able to get one.
As such, covid-19 vaccine certificates, or 'green cards', have been offered up as a way of opening businesses and services to certain people, without risking further spread of infection.
But what is a vaccine certificate and how will they work if and when they're introduced in Ireland?
What is a vaccine certificate?
A vaccine certificate, or 'green card', is essentially a document which proves that the holder has been vaccinated against Covid-19.
What are they for?
They will open up pockets of society to those who are immune to Covid-19.
With a vaccine certificate, you will be able to avail of a number of services that non-vaccinated individuals won't have access to, like cinemas, gyms and possibly even pubs.
The certificates could also mean that the holder is exempt from social distancing, movement restricting and isolation rules, and may also be able to meet other vaccine certificate holders in groups.
Why do we need them?
The certificates offer a way of opening up society, and kick-starting dormant sections of the economy, without the risk of spreading infection. Places where social distancing is difficult or impossible, like cinemas, gyms, bars, theatres and sports clubs will be able to open up safely because everyone using their services will have been vaccinated.
Is a vaccine certificate the same as a vaccine passport?
No. Covid-19 vaccine passports are to be used for international travel only. Vaccine certificates are for use of domestic services.
When will they be introduced in Ireland?
No date has been set in stone, but Tánaiste Leo Varadkar confirmed that vaccine certificates are on the way, and could be in place by June.
"We are going to give everyone a certificate. It will be a standard European form," he said.
"We'll have a better idea by the middle of the year, by June."
How will the system work?
Again, nothing has been set in stone, but everyone who receives the vaccine will be given a certificate of some kind, either in physical or electronic form - like a QR code.
Certain establishments will then ask for proof of this certificate to allow you entry.
Are other countries considering using vaccine certificates?
Israel is currently trialling vaccine certificates in the form of 'green badges,' and while trials will continue until the summer, it appears to have been a fairly successful initiative.
"Israel, which is the country that is furthest ahead of everyone in terms of vaccination now has a thing called the green badge," Varadkar explained.
"And if you have got the green badge, which means you've got the vaccine, you can go into certain establishments.
"You can go to theatres, cinemas, I think bars. You don't have to restrict your movements if you're a close contact.