SIPTU has called on all employers across both the private and public sector to facilitate working from home amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The union said that workers have expressed concern over being asked to come into their workplaces despite being able to work remotely.

"The majority of employers are proactive in assisting employees to work from home," said SIPTU's Public Administration and Community Division Organiser, Adrian Kane.

"However, many SIPTU members, in both the public and private sectors, have been in contact with the union in recent days expressing concern that they are being asked to report for work in their workplaces in circumstances where working from home could be facilitated.

"Employers need to put public health above all other concerns. This means facilitating working from home wherever possible and keeping vital services intact by ensuring that safety plans are reviewed in light of the increased transmissibility of the new strains of the virus."

He added: "There must also be a coherent approach in determining the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine programme to frontline and essential workers. Obviously, health workers must be the first in line. However, many other workers also have legitimate reasons why they should be classified as 'essential workers' and given priority access to the vaccine. These include workers in sectors such as education, pharmaceutical production, meat and food processing, local authorities, retail and transport."

SIPTU said the Government must engage with trade unions to devise a coherent plan in relation to working from home and the roll-out of the vaccine.

Meanwhile, the approval of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine by the European Medicines Agency later this month would pave the way for 100,000 weekly vaccinations here in February, the Tánaiste has said. 

Leo Varadkar told the Dáil that the EMA is due to approve the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine on 29 January, doubling our vaccine roll-out from 50,000 doses per week.

He was responding to questions from TD Cathal Berry of the Regional Independent Group, who described the roll-out as "sluggish".

During Leaders' Questions, Deputy Berry told the Dáil that IT systems were not working properly and that many frontline healthcare workers were still not vaccinated.

Mr Varadkar said the IT systems would be functional in the near future and said that the Government is considering "honorariums" for people who have been volunteering in testing hubs.

Mr Berry said these people had "epitomised the volunteer spirit" shown across Ireland during the pandemic and should be rewarded.

In relation to testing at borders, Mr Varadkar said the biggest problem facing testing for Covid-19 at ports and airports was that Northern Ireland has not introduced a similar regime for arrivals from Britain.

He called on Sinn Féin to encourage its partners in government in the Stormont Assembly to change policy.

In response, Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty accused Mr Varadkar of using the pandemic to "score political points."

Additional reporting Tommy Meskill