After nearly two years of restrictions and lockdowns, businesses are finally getting some reprieve including the lifting of proof of vaccination.
Premier Blaine Higgs announced last week that businesses that were required to ask for proof of vaccination were no longer required to do so as of Feb. 28. It did so alongside all the other Maritime provinces.
“For almost two years now, we have been living with the COVID-19 pandemic and the various measures that have been in place to protect New Brunswickers,” said Premier Blaine Higgs in a new release on Feb. 24.
“While it has not been easy, we have risen to every challenge to keep our communities and loved ones healthy and safe. I am glad to be able to say that, because the majority of New Brunswickers have done the right things over the past two years, we are now in a position where we are able to lift restrictions in the near future.”
It’s welcome news for business owner Mike Babineau.
“To me, that means there is 20 per cent of the population that can now come out and eat out at restaurants which is really needed,” he said in an interview Monday. “Part of the vaccine passport, I think the government started it as more to penalize the people that didn’t want to get the vaccine but in turn it was really penalizing the businesses.”
He said he understands it’ll take time for some people to adjust to life without restrictions.
Babineau said restaurants are a safe environment. Sanitization and cleaning are always top priority for the food service industry and he said he’ll keep things like a hand sanitizer at the door available for customers.
The Fredericton Playhouse executive director Tim Yerxa said in an email, operationally, it is welcomed news.
“Checking patron’s vaccination status took a lot of human resources and communication effort on our part,” he said. “It wasn’t so difficult to manage, but it did take a little longer to get people in the doors and required us to have an additional six volunteers working every show to check patrons’ vaccination status.”
He said the theatre will continue “some measures as we go forward including employee health screening, enhanced cleaning and disinfection.”
“We expect not everyone will be ready to return to in-person events right away. That’s OK. A full recovery will take some time.”
Still though, constitutional lawyer Lyle Skinner, who is from N.B. but based in Ottawa, said just because the government said it is required doesn’t mean a business can’t ask for proof of vaccination.
“So in this case, if a business wishes to exceed that baseline to offer proof of vaccination they are free to do so as long as they don’t interfere into a protected human rights codes (or) grounds,” he said in a interview Monday.
He said continuing to ask for proof of vaccination may be risky for businesses both legally and because it is inconvenient but the right to refuse service to anyone as a baseline has always existed.