MONTREAL — Quebec continued the expansion of its vaccine passport system Friday, with proof of vaccination now required to visit numerous health network facilities.
People aged 13 and older will need a vaccine passport to visit such places as hospitals, long-term care homes, clinics, rehabilitation centres and seniors residences.
The health order applies to caregivers, companions and visitors, but proof of vaccination won't be required to receive services or care. Other exceptions include people visiting someone receiving end-of-life care and those accompanying a child under the age of 14 or someone giving birth.
The new rule was initially planned to come into force at the same time as the vaccine mandate for health-care workers, but Health Minister Christian Dubé on Wednesday extended that deadline by one month to allow more time for employees to get vaccinated.
Dubé said he was worried about the strain on the network and having to increase the use of mandatory overtime — a controversial practice the Legault government has promised to reduce in order to attract and retain more full-time nurses.
But in order to do so, Dubé told reporters Friday in the northwestern Quebec town of Malartic, more nurses are needed in the short term. The province has offered bonuses of up to $18,000 to get nurses to return full-time to the public sector and reported this week that more than 1,700 have taken them up on the offer.
Meanwhile, health officials reported 676 new COVID-19 cases Friday and six more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus.
COVID-19-related hospitalizations rose by three, to 301, after 26 patients entered hospital and 23 were discharged. Seventy-nine people were in intensive care, an increase of three patients.
Meanwhile, the Health Department said Thursday it would lift capacity limits for bars and restaurants on Nov. 1 and allow those businesses to reduce space between tables to one metre from two metres. Bars can also return to their normal operating hours, closing at 3 a.m.
The government says it's the next step after capacity restrictions were lifted for venues with assigned seating, including cinemas, theatres, conferences and graduation ceremonies as of last Friday.
The province said relaxing measures is possible in places that require the vaccine passport.
According to the province's public health institute, 90.1 per cent of Quebecers aged 12 and older have received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 86.9 per cent are considered adequately vaccinated. The province administered 13,279 vaccine doses on Thursday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 15, 2021.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press