Quebec will implement a so-called COVID-19 “vaccine passport” system in order to keep the pandemic under control and prevent another lockdown this fall, the province’s health minister announced Thursday.
“We have to prepare for autumn,” Christian Dubé told reporters in Montreal.
The passport will only be used if the epidemiological situation warrants it, he added, such as a jump in novel coronavirus cases or if outbreaks occur. In that case, people will have to prove they are adequately vaccinated to access certain non-essential services such as gyms, bars and restaurants.
The goal is to keep another wave of restrictions off the table and to not shut down the economy again when schools reopen and the cold weather sets in. The entirety of Quebec is currently in the green zone — the most coveted and lowest level on the province’s health crisis alert scale — as immunization ramps up and COVID-19 indicators drop.
Dubé stressed that vaccination has provided an alternative to imposing restrictions to keep the virus at bay. It also alleviates pressure on the hospital network.
“We have found an alternative to generalized confinement,” he said.
Not getting vaccinated is a choice, he added, but that could mean not getting access to certain non-essential services if outbreaks occur after Sept. 1. The passport will only come into effect on that date, when everyone who is eligible has had a chance to get both shots of the vaccine.
The passport will only be used in places where there is significant transmission of COVID-19, according to Dubé.
Should an outbreak at a gym occur, he said, “we’re not closing the gym, we’re saying that for a period, only the people that have a double dose can go to the gym. It’s a risk-management approach.”
Dubé said details of how private businesses will be expected to verify proof of vaccination and how the province will manage an exemption system for people who can’t receive a vaccine for medical reasons still have to be worked out.
Doses are also widely available and the province is in a good position to boost its vaccination coverage this summer, he added.
“I am inviting Quebecers to get their second dose now,” he said.
—With files from Global News’ Tim Sargeant and The Canadian Press