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COVID-19: Saskatchewan business owners wonder how no proof of vaccine will affect business

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan business owners wonder how no proof of vaccine will affect business' Saskatchewan business owners wonder how no proof of vaccine will affect business
Saskatchewan business owners say they aren't sure how the province dropping it's proof of vaccination policy will affect them and their customers – Feb 2, 2022

Chris Plumb doesn’t know if his customers will keep coming to his restaurant when they don’t know if the person at the next table is fully vaccinated or free of COVID-19.

“As far as my business is concerned, I mean, everything is kind of up in the air,” he said.

On Monday, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe announced that, by the end of the month or possibly sooner, he would remove the public health order mandating most businesses to require customers to prove they’re fully vaccinated or provide a recent negative COVID-19 test result.

Read more: Medical experts reject statements by Scott Moe that vaccines don’t stop COVID-19 spread

Plumb said he doesn’t know if that means more customers will visit his restaurant, or fewer.

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“I really can’t speculate what might be happening in the minds of my customers,” he said. “They’re going to have to make a decision, I guess.”

Plumb said fewer people visited the ’50s-themed establishment on 13th Avenue in Regina when the measure came into effect last October, though the amount slowly increased — presumably, he said, as more people got vaccinated.

But it wasn’t enough.

Two weeks ago, Plumb posted on Facebook that his Regina restaurant, Mercury Café and Grill, needed customers to visit or he would go out of business.

They returned and he said business has been busy since then.

It’s a welcome change after the pandemic, which has now lasted nearly two years, kept customers at home and away from Mercury.

In Saskatoon, there are only a handful of patrons at Mano’s Restaurant, on 8th Street, just before noon on Tuesday.

Owner Manolis Barlas said the pandemic has been rough on the fine dining establishment.

“Right now I think … (customers) don’t feel very safe (going) out,” he said.

“And that’s why the business is slow.”

Read more: COVID-19: Trucker convoy arrives in Regina, Moe hints at lifting proof of vaccine in Sask.

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He also said fewer people visited when the province starting requiring proof of vaccination or recent negative test results, though the number has increased since then.

But he wonders what will happen without the measure.

“I think they will feel less safe,” he said, stating now customers know other patrons have taken safeguards against COVID-19.

He said his clientele is typically older and most have been vaccinated.

Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce CEO Jason Aebig tentatively welcomed the measure “if, in fact, it’s the judgment of the province and the chief medical health officer that we’re able to proceed this way.”

But he said business owners need clarity.

The province’s move to require vaccine statuses and provide proof of recent negative COVID-19 tests caused a lot of confusion when it was announced because business owners didn’t know how it would work and who would enforce it, Aebig said.

He told Global News the change this time should be decisive and clear, “meaning that all details and implications of this policy have been vetted and the business community has been consulted.”

Aebig said the government needs to explain if owners who still want to require proof of vaccine status and a recent negative test will have legal protections to do so, if the technology and the passports will be maintained and whether the change will be permanent.

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Read more: COVID-19: Sask. Premier says some measures have ‘run their course’ on radio show

Having to remove and then re-impose the measure is a drain on businesses, he told Global News.

He also said the government needs to explain which industries will be affected.

“We don’t want to be in a situation where some sectors again are subject to some sort of vax verification mandate and others are released from that responsibility,” he said.

“It creates confusion in the market, but it’s also patently unfair.”

Read more: Saskatchewan premier calls federal government’s trucker vaccine mandate ‘unnecessary’

University of Saskatchewan epidemiologist Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine said the system should remain in place.

Not only that, he said the definition of “vaccinated” must be expanded to include three doses.

“The booster dose will help us keep our hospitals from running out of capacity, totally running out of capacity,” he said in an interview.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 370 people are in hospital across the province either as a direct result of COVID-19 or incidentally, according to the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

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Vaccines not only keep vaccinated and unvaccinated people safer (since vaccines greatly reduce the transmission of COVID-19), he said, but requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test boosted vaccination rates.

“(No longer requiring proof of vaccination or a recent negative test) sends a wrong message at this particular time, and that message is that vaccines don’t work. And they work, by the way.”

He said now is not the time to remove all proof of vaccination requirements because so few people, less than 50 per cent in Saskatchewan, have a booster dose.

Plumb said he hadn’t thought about requiring proof of vaccination past the government ending the policy. When then the time comes, he said “I (need) to listen to science. And then on the other hand, I (need) to listen to politics. Then I (need) to listen to the rules and the health orders.”

Barlas said he would keep requiring proof of vaccination for a little while after the government drops the public health order, saying he wants “to make sure to protect our clients, protect our staff and ourselves.”

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan to end proof of vaccination, negative test ‘very soon,’ premier says' Saskatchewan to end proof of vaccination, negative test ‘very soon,’ premier says
Saskatchewan to end proof of vaccination, negative test ‘very soon,’ premier says – Jan 31, 2022

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