Province begins vaccine passport pilot projects
Tara Monette, co-owner of Brennan’s Hill Restaurant and Bar in Low, said she learned early on that there are two things you don’t discuss over drinks: religion and politics. More recently, a third topic has been added to that list: COVID-19.
“So many people have such strong beliefs about it,” Monette said, explaining that when she and her partner, Billy, the bar’s other co-owner, had announced the bar would reopen on Aug. 18, they had wanted to create a safe space for all of their customers, regardless of their beliefs on any of those subjects.
After Premier Francois Legault announced on Aug. 5 that the province would be implementing a vaccine passport in September, Tara and Billy will have no choice but to ask their customers about it.
The passport, which will take the form of an online smartphone application and take effect Sept. 1, will be required at non-essential businesses, including restaurants, bars, gyms, and high-risk public events like concerts.
Tara and Billy said they were already a little overwhelmed with all of the responsibilities they previously had to fulfill when it came to things like cleaning and sanitization regimens, enforcing mask wearing, and hiring enough staff. Now the two say the vaccine passports could lose them good customers.
“We have a regular who comes to play darts who has already told us he had no plans to get the vaccine,” Tara explained. “It's sad for us because we have people who are really good customers that we aren't going to be allowed to let in … because of their beliefs.”
While the passports might lose the two customers in the short term, the two said they are far more concerned with a potential fourth wave shutting them down again completely, so they’re willing to do what they have to.
“There's so many people that are not getting vaccinated and that's what's killing it,” Billy explained. “The hospitals are getting flooded again, and if that happens, they'll have to shut things down.”
At a press conference on Aug. 10, the province's Health Minister Christian Dubé said that the passport was the only way to keep the economy open, while protecting the health system from being overwhelmed in what he called an “inevitable” fourth wave driven by the delta variant. The online application began testing as part of the first of two pilot projects on Aug. 11 at a sports bar in Quebec City. The second pilot project will run at a gym in Laval beginning Aug. 18.
Dubé added that the government wants to have the smartphone application ready for use across the province by September, and that people who do not have a smartphone will be able to use the paper vaccination certificates issued at vaccine centres. They can also print out their QR code or request a paper version by mail.