N.L. government reveals draft vaccine passport plan to St. John's business community

·3 min read
The QR code application for Newfoundland and Labrador's vaccine passport will be available for download on Oct. 8.  (Matthew Howard/CBC - image credit)
The QR code application for Newfoundland and Labrador's vaccine passport will be available for download on Oct. 8. (Matthew Howard/CBC - image credit)

Although the Newfoundland and Labrador government has been tight-lipped with the public about the details surrounding the province's vaccine passport program, some details have been shared with members of the business community.

A half-hour after Tuesday's COVID-19 briefing, government health officials met virtually with members of the St. John's Board of Trade to discuss what it's calling a "draft plan" and asked the business community for feedback.

"It's one more thing that businesses are going to be expected to deal with and play a really key and critical role in a successful and effective implementation, so we wanted them to have the information in advance," said AnnMarie Boudreau, CEO of the St. John's Board of Trade.

Health officials made it clear the program is still being worked out and the plans for the passport application, scheduled to be launched Oct. 8, are not final.

I will be keen to see what the government comes back with. - AnnMarie Boudreau

The government says the vaccine passport will be mandatory for non-essential activities.

Some of those activities included on the draft list include places where sports or recreational activities are practised, bars, lounges, restaurants, indoor entertainment, cinemas and formal indoor and outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people.

The vaccine passport will not be required in retail stores, schools, child-care centres, places of worship, post-secondary institutions, health-care facilities, personal service establishments, taxis, public transit, hotels and bed and breakfast accommodations.

There is also an exemption in sports facilities for youths under 18 participating in sports and recreational activities.

Evan Mitsui/CBC
Evan Mitsui/CBC

The government will be using a QR code, either in a downloadable application or printed as a physical copy. Partially vaccinated individuals will not be able to get a QR code.

Employees will stand at the entrance of a business with a cellular device to scan QR codes and check photo ID of people 19 years old and up for to prove they are the holder of their vaccine records.

People from 12 to 18 years old will not be required to provide photo identification but will need a piece of ID that shows their date of birth to verify they are under 19.

People visiting Newfoundland and Labrador from elsewhere in Canada will not need the vaccine passport but will have to show proof of vaccination status in paper form.

Health officials said environmental health officers with Digital Government and Service N.L. will monitor complaints about people demanding entry to an establishment without providing proof of vaccination, and the RCMP and RNC have the authority to issue tickets.

The St. John's Board of Trade says 90 per cent of its members are in favour of a vaccine passport program but said businesses have absorbed a lot of extra costs and effort to keep the public safe.

Meg Roberts/CBC
Meg Roberts/CBC

Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council said it's hearing the same message from businesses across the province.

"Employers and employees have an obligation under law, under the occupational health and safety act to ensure that the workplace is safe both for customers and for employees. That is the law, we have to do that. A vaccine passport and getting vaccinated is one of the best things we can do to ensure that," said Richard Alexander, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council.

Alexander said the vast majority of small businesses across the province and other parts of the country are nowhere near the revenues they were making prior to the pandemic and he's hoping the vaccine passport will stop future shutdowns.

"It's going to help us get to a place where we have rebounded and we can start paying off this huge debt that we have as a result of this pandemic," said Alexander.

Meanwhile, Boudreau said the board was fortunate to have a discussion with government officials before the passport is launched, rather than having businesses scrambling to figure out the rules afterward.

"I will be keen to see what the government comes back with," she said.

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