MONTREAL — Quebec's official Opposition called on the government Tuesday to impose a vaccine-passport system as soon as possible, warning that if the province waits until September as planned, it could be too late to avoid another lockdown.
With the number of new daily infections rising and with students returning to school in a few weeks and workers heading back to offices, the state must move quickly, Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade said.
"We need to be proactive, because the way we feel right now is that the government is waiting to see how things are going to evolve," she said in an interview. "The cases are increasing as we speak and we need to make decisions now that are going to be applicable sooner rather than later."
Quebec reported 175 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday — the second-highest number of new daily cases reported in more than a month. Health officials have reported an average of 153 new daily COVID-19 cases over the past seven days compared to an average of 69 the prior week.
The Quebec government has said that starting September, it will require people to prove they are vaccinated to access non-essential services in parts of the province where COVID-19 transmission is high. But the health minister has also said the passports wouldn't be used if enough people are vaccinated and transmission is low.
Anglade said she worries that if the system is implemented in September, it may come too late for the province to avoid another lockdown. "It's likely going to be too late if we don't act now," she said.
Marjaurie Côté-Boileau, a spokeswoman for Health Minister Christian Dubé, said the government is sticking to its plan to have the system ready for September. Waiting for next month will ensure "every Quebecer will have had the chance to get their second dose," she wrote in an email Tuesday.
"Introducing the vaccine passport immediately would unfairly harm Quebecers who have not yet had the opportunity to get their second dose," she said.
New York City announced a vaccine-passport plan on Tuesday that will require people to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination before they can dine indoors at restaurants, see shows or go to gyms. The system will be phased in over several weeks in August and September.
According to the province's public health institute, 84.2 per cent of Quebec residents 12 and up have received at least one dose of vaccine and 68.6 per cent are considered adequately vaccinated. It said COVID-19-related hospitalizations dropped by three, to 58, and 18 people were in intensive care with the disease, a rise of one.
No deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus since July 22 have been reported in Quebec.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 3, 2021.
— With files from The Associated Press.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press