Nova Scotia’s proof-of-vaccination policy is now in effect. Here’s what you need to know

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Nova Scotia’s final phase of its COVID reopening plan is starting on Monday with what officials say is a cautious approach involving mandatory vaccination for professions, such as health workers and teachers by the end of November.

Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, said vaccination will be required for a broad range of public employees, including hospital and long-term care workers, physicians, paramedics, teachers and other educational staff.

Strang said those workers will need to provide proof of vaccination by Nov. 30 or risk being put on unpaid administrative leave.

Workers who are not vaccinated will be required to participate in a vaccine education program before the deadline, and all new hires in the mandated professions will need to be fully vaccinated.

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“The Delta variant has impacted our epidemiology. The fourth wave is taking its toll across the country and it’s now in Nova Scotia,” said Premier Tim Houston on Sept. 29.

“We can lift some restrictions with the added protection of the proof of full vaccine protocol and our high vaccination rates.”

Proof of full vaccination will be required for people who are aged 12 and older, in order to participate in non-essential events and activities that gather people together, such as going to restaurants, movies, sports events, theatre performances, social events, and the gym.

Here’s everything you need to know on how to navigate the new system.

What is the proof of vaccination?

People who got their COVID-19 vaccine in Nova Scotia receive a digital copy of the ‘Nova Scotia COVID-19 Proof of Vaccination’ by email. The digital copy includes the date, time, location, type, brand and lot number of the COVID-19 vaccine.

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Within the province, people can use their Nova Scotia COVID-19 Proof of Vaccination, which is not a vaccine passport, to show proof of vaccination.

People can also get their Nova Scotia COVID-19 Proof of Vaccination online or call  1-833-797-7772 (Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.).

Before travelling outside Nova Scotia, people need to check with the jurisdiction they’re travelling to about required documentation for proof of vaccination there.

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COVID-19: Nova Scotia to start phase five on Oct. 4

How does it work?

As of Oct. 1, Nova Scotia adopted the standard format proof of vaccination developed by the federal government. The format can be downloaded online, and includes a QR code.

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People can also print out the proof of vaccination, and even use the original Nova Scotia vaccine record format. Those who were vaccinated in other jurisdictions can show proof from there as well.

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In some cases, valid ID – such as a driver’s licence – will be needed to verify that the person is showing their own proof of vaccination.

Proof of vaccination isn’t required for children aged 11 and younger who attend events activities with a fully vaccinated adult.

Where am I required to show proof of vaccination?

Nova Scotians will be required to show proof of full vaccination to attend or participate in discretionary, non-essential events, activities and services that gather people together, including:

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  • Full-service restaurants where patrons sit at tables to be served, both indoors and on patios
  • Food establishments (like fast food and coffee shops) where people sit to eat and drink, both indoors and on patios (not including takeout, drive-thru or delivery)
  • Liquor licensed (drinking) establishments (like bars, wineries, distillery tasting rooms, craft taprooms and liquor manufacturers), both indoors and on patios
  • Casinos and gaming establishments, both indoors and on patios
  • Fitness establishments (like gyms and yoga studios) and sport and recreation facilities (like arenas, pools and large multipurpose recreation facilities)
  • Businesses and organizations offering indoor and outdoor recreation and leisure activities (like climbing facilities, dance classes, escape rooms, go-carts, indoor arcades, indoor play spaces, music lessons, pottery painting, shooting ranges and outdoor adventure)
  • Indoor and outdoor festivals, special events and arts and culture events (like theatre performances, concerts and movie theatres), unless they’re outdoor events held in a public space with no specific entry point (like Nocturne)
  • Indoor and outdoor sports practices, games, competitions and tournaments (participants and spectators)
  • Indoor and outdoor extracurricular school-based activities, including sports
  • Bus, boat and walking tours
  • Museums, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and public library programs
  • Indoor and outdoor events and activities like receptions, social events, conferences and training that are hosted by a business or organization
  • Indoor and outdoor wedding ceremonies and funerals (including receptions and visitation) that are hosted by a business or organization
  • Community meetings in rental spaces or where the public may be present (like annual general meetings of businesses or organizations)
  • Training hosted by a business or organization (like driver training or courses offered by a business that provides training) and any training using a rental space

According to the province, under the protocol, proof of vaccination isn’t required for the staff of businesses and organizations that offer the events and activities, however, proof of vaccination is required for volunteers who host, lead or organize the events and activities.

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Click to play video: 'Health care employees required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination'
Health care employees required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination

What non-essential services or places can I access without proof of vaccination?

Proof of full vaccination isn’t required for most places that don’t host formal gatherings and places that offer essential, non-discretionary services and activities, including:

  • Retail stores
  • Financial institutions
  • Professional services like accountants and lawyers
  • Personal services like hair salons, barbershops, spas, nail salons and body art establishments
  • Health-care services and health professions like doctor’s offices, dental care, massage therapy and physiotherapy
  • Rental accommodations like hotel rooms, cottages and campgrounds
  • Faith services
  • Pre-primary to Grade 12 school-based activities and field trips that take place during the school day (unless a field trip is for an event or activity where proof of full vaccination is required), before and after school programs and school buses
  • Post-secondary institutions (universities, NSCC, private career colleges and language schools) unless they’re hosting events or activities attended by the public
  • Mental health and addictions support groups
  • Business meetings and other activities in the workplace that involve people who regularly work together and where the public isn’t present (unless it’s in a rented space)
  • Legislatively required meetings where public participation can’t be done virtually (like municipal council meetings where citizens have a democratic right to participate)
  • Safety training that’s required for a person’s job and can’t be done virtually
  • Places where government services are offered (like Access Nova Scotia)
  • Food banks, shelters, family resource centres and adult day programs for seniors and people with disabilities
  • Informal gatherings at a private residence
  • General access to public libraries (like borrowing books and using computers)
  • Public transportation

What rules apply for people visiting from out of province?

Nova Scotia is re-establishing border controls.

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As of Monday, everyone coming to Nova Scotia from other parts of Canada will need to complete the Nova Scotia Safe Check-in form.

Travelers’ isolation will be based on vaccination status and testing. People who were fully vaccinated at least 14 days before arriving do not have to isolate, but testing is recommended.

People who are not fully vaccinated must isolate for at least seven days and get two negative test results in Nova Scotia to stop isolating after seven days. They must be lab-based tests, not rapid tests.

How will it be enforced?

Premier Tim Houston said the province has no initial plans to have a roving enforcement team to ensure compliance with the new rule, as he expects businesses will voluntarily adopt measures to check people’s vaccine documents.

Penalties for non-compliance also haven’t been put in place yet, though it’s still possible they will be, said the premier early in September.

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“If we start to sense that there will be some kind of an issue, or if (non-compliance with vaccination rules) actually happens, we’ll address that,” he said in a COVID-19 briefing on Sept. 9.

In the meantime, police are still authorized to enforce orders under the Health Protection Act like gathering limits, social distancing and self-isolation requirements.

For example, each person at a large gathering exceeding public health orders can be fined $2,000. If businesses and organizations do not follow public health measures, they can be fined $7,500. Multiple fines can be given each day if an individual, business or organization fails to comply.

-With files from The Canadian Press

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