Nova Scotia announced Wednesday that proof of full vaccination will be required to participate in non-essential activities beginning Oct. 4, such as going to restaurants, bars, concerts, movies and fitness facilities.
"This gives us the best chance of staying open, once we've opened," said Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health.
"We do not want to shut the province down again."
Strang said the system will apply to people 12 and over looking to participate in "social activities that bring people together," which is where COVID-19 "thrives."
For children 11 and under, proof of vaccination won't be required because they're not eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations. Children who attend these events with a fully vaccinated individual will be allowed to participate.
Strang said proof of vaccination will help keep communities safe, ensure children and youth can safely attend school, and protect the health-care system and its providers.
Strang and Premier Tim Houston did not call the system a vaccine passport — a measure introduced in other jurisdictions that has sparked debate over privacy and personal freedom versus public health. However, there doesn't appear to be any difference between a vaccine passport and the Nova Scotia policy announced Wednesday.
"It's a policy that will keep people safe, so that's why we're calling it the proof of vaccine policy," said Houston.
Strang said Nova Scotians can already show proof of vaccination through the CANImmunize app, either by showing the screen or printing the information off. Until the province develops a digital option, CANImmunize will act as proof.
What other provinces are doing
Nova Scotia follows the lead of several other Canadian provinces and territories that have already implemented or plan to roll out vaccine passports, including the Yukon, B.C., Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Houston, who was elected premier on Aug. 17, said after his election that he would look to Strang and his team for guidance on vaccine passports.
"It's not a decision I'm qualified to make," he said Aug. 18. "I need input from the experts."
Last month, a protest against vaccine passports was held in downtown Halifax and was attended by around 100 people.
Province to reach phase 5 of reopening Sept. 15
Nova Scotia also announced Wednesday it will enter phase five of its reopening plan on Sept. 15, which is when 75 per cent of the population is expected to be fully vaccinated. Houston said Wednesday that 72 per cent of people have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
Phase five will see the elimination of mandatory indoor masking requirements and physical distancing requirements.
Strang said masking will be encouraged, and businesses and organizations will be encouraged to implement their own rules.
Strang said if cases rise in a certain area or setting, mandatory masking will be reintroduced.
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