COVID-19: Saskatchewan businesses react to proof of vaccine requirement lifting

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Saskatchewan businesses react to proof of vaccine requirement lifting
WATCH: Saskatchewan’s proof of vaccination health order or a negative test is no longer in effect when going to events, restaurants, bars, or the gym. – Feb 15, 2022

As of 12:01 a.m. Monday, the Saskatchewan government’s proof of vaccination health order, designed to stop the spread of COVID-19, is no longer in effect.

That means Saskatchewan residents can attend events, go to restaurants and bar and work out with no limits.

Business owners who spoke to Global News said they’re relieved — not because they think it’s the right or wrong thing to do, but because it’s one less thing they’re responsible for.

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“We’ve been operating throughout the entire pandemic and we’ve gotten pretty used to pivoting our business and changing on the fly,” Cierra Sieban-Shuback said.

“So for us, it’s honestly moreso ‘normal’ than anything else.”

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Sieban-Shuback owns Living Skies Cannabis in Saskatoon. For the first time since Oct. 1, she doesn’t need to check customers for proof of vaccination or for a recent negative COVID-19 test.

She says there’s been a bit of confusion with customers because some think the mask mandate is lifting as well.

But overall it’s been a calm day, which is very different from how it started.

“There was just a lot of negative feedback from people. A lot of verbal abuse thrown at our staff. And that’s really not fair given we’re just doing our jobs,” she said.

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Cannabis and liquor sales are already heavily-regulated sectors, and the province announced the vaccine passport system applied to them just days before it went into effect.

Sieban-Shuback said she wants to focus on serving her customers safely. Having one less thing to focus on helps, she said.

The burden for enforcement, and in many situations, education of the public health orders, fell on business owners.

“Overnight we had to become public servants and police, something we didn’t have the skills to do,” Sieban-Shuback told Global News.

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“We did see, in some cases, smaller retailers either having to close early or really scale back their operations because they didn’t have enough people to support that function,” Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce CEO Jason Aebig said.

For the most part, Aebig said, “business owners are… caught in the middle here and will always be a little wary about changes this significant because it always has the risk of affecting at least some component of your client base.”

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Colin Hall co-owns Regina yoga studio Bodhi Tree Yoga, which began checking vaccine statuses for clients before the province required it.

He said he thinks the provincial government removed the measure somewhat prematurely, saying a proof of vaccination was “one of these little things that kind of made people feel more comfortable at a time when a lot of us are feeling very uncomfortable and unsettled about things.”

But he is also following the province’s lead, telling Global News Morning Regina his own staff faced abuse.

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Bill Flahr, the president of Saskatoon’s Nutana Legion, said employees will keep asking for proof of vaccination.

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Flahr told Global News the membership — who are typically seniors — just feel safer with it in place.

“Quite a few of them have underlying conditions,” he said. “Some are quite vulnerable to COVID-19. So we’re being very cautious most of the time.”

He said the members will vote on how long to continue the measure during their next membership meeting at the end of the month.

But maintaining it may be more complicated than it was 24 hours earlier.

Last week, Premier Scott Moe said businesses and municipalities should consult their lawyers if they want to keep checking vaccine statuses.

As well, the vaccine status verifier app the government provided is no longer available. The province is asking businesses using the app to delete it from their devices and to use other QR reader apps.

In a press release put out on Monday, the province said the digital vaccine passports themselves will be maintained so people can provide them where they need to in area’s outside the province’s jurisdiction.

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan drops proof-of-vaccination'
Saskatchewan drops proof-of-vaccination

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