N.L. premier announces vaccine passport as cluster of new COVID-19 cases reported

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador will introduce a vaccination passport that will use a QR code to show a person's level of vaccination against COVID-19.

Premier Andrew Furey made the announcement Tuesday as the province reported five new confirmed cases of COVID-19. He said the province has looked at what is being done in other jurisdictions and chosen to model its vaccine passport system on the one that took effect in Quebec Sept. 1.

He did not provide specifics on where the passport will be required and said it will be introduced "within the coming weeks to month." Furey said the Quebec model has been tested and shown to be secure, and he hopes the requirement will "nudge" people toward getting vaccinated.

"It will allow — should another wave occur in certain areas around the province that may have lower vaccination rates — the economy and the businesses to stay open and frankly not penalize those who made the right choice and educated choice to get a vaccine," Furey said.

The new confirmed cases announced Tuesday are in the health region that covers Labrador and much of Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula, and there are also seven new presumptive positive cases in the province.

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, chief medical officer of health, said a cluster of cases has been confirmed, involving a large number of high-risk contacts and evidence of community spread. She said it also involves the Delta variant and a low vaccination rate in communities in the area.

"Effective immediately, a special measures order is being introduced to move several towns and communities on the Northern Peninsula east region to Alert Level 3. It will include a requirement for wearing masks in all indoor public spaces," Fitzgerald said at the afternoon news conference in St. John's.

There are 35 active cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador and one person is hospitalized.

Furey repeatedly urged residents to get vaccinated. "The best way to keep the mask off is to get the shot in," he said.

Meanwhile, the P.E.I. government said it will introduce some sort of COVID-19 vaccine passport by early next month, though details of how it will work remain sketchy.

The province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Heather Morrison, indicated Tuesday that the passport will mainly be used by those who must prove they have received two vaccinations before attending a large event where physical distancing is difficult.

Morrison noted that the province already has the P.E.I. Pass, which is for Islanders returning home and visitors from outside the province who can prove they are fully or partially vaccinated when they enter the province. The pass allows them to avoid self-isolation, depending on the level of vaccination and where they are arriving from.

Morrison also announced the province would be delaying its plan to drop most of its health protection orders as of Sept. 12.

She said the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant and the resulting emergence of a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections had prompted health officials to put off moving the province to the fifth stage of its "Moving Forward" plan.

Morrison said it would be prudent for the province to adopt a stay-the-course approach, which means gathering limits will remain in place at least until mid-October, and workers at the province's border checkpoints will continue screening travellers.

Last week, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said his province would likely move toward a vaccine passport as a way to ensure residents have mobility to move throughout the country.

New Brunswick on Tuesday reported 54 new cases of COVID-19 over the previous four days and another death related to the illness. A person from the Moncton region in their 70s has died as a result of COVID-19, bringing the number of COVID-19-related deaths in the province to 47.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell said the number of active cases is 125. There are four people hospitalized due to the virus, with three in an intensive care unit.

And Nova Scotia reported 29 new cases of COVID-19 and 26 recoveries since its last update on Sept. 3. There are now 58 active cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia and two people are in hospital.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 7, 2021.

— By Kevin Bissett in Fredericton with files from Michael MacDonald in Halifax.

The Canadian Press

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