B.C. vaccine passport: Lessons from Quebec

MONTREAL (NEWS 1130) – Proof of at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine is now needed in B.C. for services deemed non-essential by the province. But a vaccine passport system is already being used in other provinces, like Quebec.

Quebecers have had to show proof of vaccination to enter certain settings, like restaurants, since Sept. 1.

“It’s been a bit of an adaptation, for sure, but it’s been simple enough, it’s been pretty straight forward,” said François Letendre-Joachim, owner of Shaughnessy Café in Montreal.

He says while checking for proof of vaccination does take a bit more time, he doesn’t find it a hassle, adding customers have so far not given his staff any grief.

“I think most people understand that it’s not us imposing that — it’s more of a rule and we are subject to fines and to penalties if we don’t,” Letendre-Joachim added.

Martin Vézina with Quebec’s restaurant association agrees there have been no major issues. However, he admits there have been some minor hiccups.

Vézina says there are some people who have had trouble using the system, adding others, mostly seniors, have had issues understanding what a QR code is.

“Or they forget their QR codes,” L’Association Restauration Québec spokesperson added.

It’s been smooth sailing for the most part, but Vézina admits it’s been a bit of a transition for some.

“It’s still a burden because you need to check everyone to enter, to scan their passport, to see it flash green, and after that we also have a mandatory registry in Quebec,” he explained.

Letendre-Joachim says he, too, has seen some seen some minor issues or challenges, particularly when it comes to dealing with out-of-province visitors.

“It’s definitely more of a challenge when it’s printed on a piece of paper from another province and you don’t really know what their proof of vaccinations are,” he told NEWS 1130. “But at the same time, it’s not rocket science, you just have to make sure the ID’s fine.”

A COVID-19 QR code is scanned at an Orangetheory Fitness in Montreal on Wednesday, September 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

There have also been a few problems scanning the QR codes that are printed on pieces of paper that have been folded.

Some restaurants in B.C. and elsewhere in Canada where proof of vaccine is needed have hired on more staff to deal with the added work. However, that hasn’t been the case for Letendre-Joachim, who says his staff have just had to be a bit more patient.

“It does take a bit more time because you have to sometimes explain how it works and actually get the QR codes scanned, but we haven’t had to hire someone for that extra work,” he said.

Though the rollout in Quebec has gone smoothly for the most part — aside from some confusion or concerns in the days leading up to it — protests have been planned in that province, along with several others across the country, including B.C.

Read more:

Many have been angry with vaccine passport plans in Canada, demanding a right to free choice.

Despite this, Vézina says he hasn’t heard of any major pushback on operators over the past several days.

“We didn’t hear about any demonstrations from anti-vaxxers … that come in to say we want to come in, and want to stay, and we want to demonstrate that we want to eat in a restaurant without a vaccine passport — we didn’t see that,” he explained.

While proof of vaccination has been required in Quebec since Sept. 1, people have been given a two-week grace period — as is being done in B.C. — with La Belle Province set to begin strictly enforcing the order on Sept. 15.

“If it allows us to remain open even in a fourth wave, we think it can be acceptable,” Vézina told NEWS 1130.

In B.C., proof of vaccination is now required to access certain services, businesses, and events. Any proof of at least one dose of a vaccine against COVID-19 will be accepted until Sept. 26, after which people will have to use the provincial system. This does not apply to out-of-province visitors, who must only show acceptable proof of vaccination from where they are coming from, along with valid government ID.

By Oct. 24, you must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to access some events, services, and businesses in B.C.

The BC Vaccine Card has a QR code which is a scannable square-shaped image, like bar code technology, that is readable by a digital device like a smartphone. (gov.bc.ca)

-With files from Claire Fenton and Mike Lloyd

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