A vaccinate-or-test policy for provincial workers dealing with vulnerable populations on Prince Edward Island will come into effect Friday.
Premier Dennis King told a COVID-19 briefing Tuesday that the policy, similar to the one implemented at long-term care facilities earlier this month, will target those working in classrooms, correctional facilities, group homes and early learning centres.
Staff at these facilities will be tested between one and three times per week depending on their work schedule. The self-administered rapid test must be witnessed, and the Chief Public Health office can audit the data at any time.
On another front, the province is looking to implement a vaccine passport by Oct. 5, the premier said.
King said his government is working with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick on the creation of the P.E.I. Vax Pass, so that it will be recognized in those provinces and similar passes from those jurisdictions will be recognized on the Island.
The pass would apply to "essentially any place where large gatherings will occur," including restaurants, indoor and outdoor gatherings and events, wedding and funeral receptions, restaurants and sporting events.
Places of worship, wedding and funeral ceremonies, and essential services such as retail stores, banks and health-care facilities will be exempt.
Islanders under 12, who can't be vaccinated at the moment, or with medical exemptions won't need the pass in order to take part.
The P.E.I. Vax Pass will be a way to avoid more widespread lockdowns, said Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison.
"New cases, hospitalizations and deaths are occurring primarily among unvaccinated individuals," said Morrison.
Since December 2020, she said, 84 per cent of hospitalizations across Canada have involved people who are unvaccinated, and less than two per cent were reported among fully vaccinated people.
COVID-19 is an agile virus that spreads very easily among unvaccinated individuals. - Dr. Heather Morrison
"COVID-19 is an agile virus that spreads very easily among unvaccinated individuals," Morrison said, noting that the average weekly rate of hospitalized cases is 39 times higher in unvaccinated Canadians compared to fully vaccinated people.
She also said all of the P.E.I. cases reviewed by the National Microbiology Lab in September have been confirmed as the delta variant. Throughout Canada, 98 per cent of all new cases are the delta variant, which she said has a "breathtaking ability" to spread with little contact.
QR code version on way
The pass will start as a paper, King said, but the province hopes to develop a scannable QR code version before the end of October.
"We want it to be as efficient as possible, and it will become more efficient once we get the electronic component of this in place," he said.
No details are yet available on how Islanders will apply for the P.E.I. Vax Pass.
The pass will be a temporary measure, while the threat of COVID-19 remains present, King said.