A wide range of ‘essential services’ will not be eligible for Alberta’s proof of vaccination program

The Alberta government has clarified which businesses it considers essential services and therefore will not be exempt from the restrictions if it chooses to participate in the proof of vaccination program on Monday.

From Monday, non-essential businesses and services can choose to require proof of vaccination for customers. Those who opt out must comply with capacity and operating restrictions.

The list of eligible businesses, which includes restaurants, clubs, casinos and cinemas, was originally meant to include retail.

But over the weekend, Alberta Health said retail stores would no longer be eligible to participate — meaning that even if they implement proof of vaccination, they will still be subject to capacity limits.

Businesses ineligible to participate in the Restriction Waiver Program now include:

  • Private events.
  • Retail businesses and malls.
  • Food courts.
  • Health, personal and welfare services.
  • Libraries.
  • Workers on a construction site in view of their employment.
  • K-12 schools, publicly funded post-secondary institutions and First Nations colleges. Post-secondary education will be subject to a separate sector exemption.
  • Places of worship.
  • Hotels.

Masks will be mandatory in all indoor public spaces, whether or not they participate in the program.

Details on how the Restriction Exemption Program works are available on the government website.

CEO taken by surprise

Kyle Bordage, owner of Imaginary Wars Gaming and Hobbies, said Sunday he was surprised to learn that the restriction waiver program had changed to no longer include retail.

“We had thought that now that things were opening up we could have small group activities here, now that’s not the case. It was a gut punch because I thought I was above it all,” he said.

His store carefully restricted capacity, but he hoped to safely hold some tabletop gaming events once the restrictions cleared.

“There’s this real camaraderie that brings people together,” he said. “With everyone double vaccinated, everyone in the store wearing masks, it seemed like for once people who had been very, very careful could exercise the rights that come with being very, very careful. But now it seems that not everything, everyone is being punished.”

The Government of Alberta has launched its vaccine registry website on Sunday, which allows people to save or print their COVID-19 vaccination status by entering their Medicare number, vaccination date and date of birth.

However, the medium in which the vaccination records were made available – an unsecured PDF rather than a QR code or app – has come under criticism.

Michelle J. Kelley