COVID-19: Quebec businesses want vaccine passport system to be simple, not a burden

A QR code is seen on a smartphone at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic, Thursday, May 13, 2021 in Montreal. The Quebec government will be sending a personalized QR code to all vaccinated Quebecers. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Business owners say they are happy Quebec’s vaccine-passport system will allow them to operate during potential COVID-19 outbreaks, but they worry the health order will become burdensome and another source of conflict with clients.

The province has taken the lead in Canada on this issue, stating that in September, it will need people to prove they are vaccinated to access non-essential businesses — such as bars and gyms — in parts of the province where COVID-19 transmission is high.

Gabriel Hardy, a gym owner and the Quebec spokesman for the Fitness Industry Council of Canada, says he’s worried the passport system will become another hassle as his members try to recover from the pandemic.

“We had to deal with all the measures: distancing, limiting capacity, bookings, mandatory masks and managing anti-maskers,” Hardy said in an interview Friday. “We had to go through a lot of steps and deal with unsatisfied clients, and this one is just another (step).”

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Read more: Quebec to implement COVID-19 vaccine passport system by September

Francis Bérubé, policy analyst for the Quebec chapter of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, says the proposed health order shows the government is serious about keeping the economy open if cases should rise. “It’s evident that if there’s another lockdown, it’s going to be catastrophic for certain businesses,” Bérubé said in an interview Friday.

Quebec’s government has provided vaccinated residents with a QR code as proof they received one or doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. And while the government hasn’t yet released details about how the passport system would work, Bérubé said he expects to be consulted before it’s implemented so he can offer advice on how to reduce the burden on businesses.

The proof-of-vaccination system, Bérubé added, must be simple because businesses are already managing a slew of COVID-19 health orders. “Our job will be to ensure that this measure, if applied, remains simple and favourable to business owners.”

Click to play video: 'Quebec to implement COVID-19 vaccine passport system by September' Quebec to implement COVID-19 vaccine passport system by September
Quebec to implement COVID-19 vaccine passport system by September – Jul 8, 2021

Despite his concerns, Hardy said he recognizes the passport system will help gyms operate amid a potential fourth wave. Gyms, he added, were among the first places to close and among the last to reopen during the lockdowns. “We saw how people were affected by lack of exercise, how anxiety levels rose because we weren’t able to evacuate the stress,” he said.

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Hardy, however, is questioning how he will handle unvaccinated people who paid for yearly memberships and who will not be permitted to enter his gym during periods of high COVID-19 transmission. “Are we supposed to tell our clients, who already paid, that they can’t use our services?”

Meanwhile, Quebec reported 77 new COVID-19 cases Friday and one more death attributed to the novel coronavirus. Health officials said hospitalizations dropped by five, to 96, and 22 people were in intensive care, a drop of one.

Officials said 120,210 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered Thursday. Quebec’s public health institute said 82.1 per cent of residents 12 and older have received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 44.2 per cent are considered adequately vaccinated.

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