COVID ‘vaccine passports’ won’t be needed for essential services: Dubé

“If you want to live a normal life, without restrictions, you have to go and get vaccinated now,” said Quebec’s health minister.

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Quebec will require its citizens to carry a “vaccine passport” as of September 1 which would be used to exclude those who have not received two doses from going to gyms and bars or participating in team sports in COVID-19 hot zones.

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Health Minister Christian Dubé stressed that passports would only be compulsory in regions experiencing epidemics and would not be necessary to access essential services. The government has set the deadline for September 1, as it is expected that everyone will have the opportunity to receive two doses by then.

“With vaccinations, we have an alternative to generalized confinements,” said Dubé. “It will be good for society, education, the economy and the health network.

“It is quite clear that those who are properly vaccinated will have a more normal situation. …People who refuse to be vaccinated, it is their right, but they must know that in the event of an epidemic or transmission in a certain area, they may have to isolate themselves, they may have to get tested. Or they may not have access to certain activities.

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Quebec will restrict access to “high contact areas” like gymnasiums and bars, or activities like team sports, Dubé said, and to “moderate contact areas” like arts festivals or watch sports competitions.

Recent polls show that 95% of people who contract COVID-19 in Quebec or who are hospitalized are those who have not been fully vaccinated, Dubé said.

“We cannot continue to paralyze, for example, the health network, when people choose not to be vaccinated,” he said.

The move to impose stricter regulations was spurred in large part by fears of more transmissible variants that have led to outbreaks in countries like the UK, despite relatively high vaccination rates.

The government also hopes to boost the 18 to 29-year-old sector which has been slower to get vaccinated. In order to get two doses by September 1, members of this age group will need to be vaccinated for the first time in July. The wait time between doses has been reduced to four weeks and Quebec now has an adequate supply of vaccines, Dubé said. He pointed to Montreal, Laval, Outaouais and Mauricie–Centre-du-Québec as regions where vaccination of young people is lagging behind.

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“I’m telling you, it’s starting to get urgent to get your first dose if you haven’t already,” Dubé said.

The requirement for a vaccination passport or proof of adequate vaccination would apply to anyone coming from abroad to an affected region of Quebec, including workers commuting from Ontario or travelers from ‘other countries.

People with medical conditions prohibiting them from getting vaccinated can have a medical waiver that would serve as their passport.

Responding to criticism that vaccine passports unfairly target marginalized communities for whom it is harder to access vaccines, Dubé said people have plenty of time to get a first dose and the government is working to make vaccinate these sectors of society.

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The Montreal Chamber of Commerce welcomed the news, but said the government should introduce the use of vaccine passports sooner so that restaurants and cultural institutions can open at full capacity for those who are adequately vaccinated, as is happening. done in countries like Israel and Denmark. He also called on the federal government to open borders to fully vaccinated tourists without requiring them to quarantine.

“While most of our international partners are already moving in this direction, Canada is lagging behind, which is causing considerable harm to our tourism sector,” said President Michel Leblanc.

Since restrictions on people’s freedoms will depend on the government using scientific data to demonstrate the need for the measures, Quebec’s vaccine passports would likely meet international legal standards, said human rights lawyer Pearl Eliadis. and professor of law at McGill.

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“If there is an outbreak and we see that public health measures are needed and supported by scientific data, then we put individual measures in place, and if all of those ifs are met, then I think that would respond. to the legal test,” she said. mentioned.

The opposition Quebec Solidaire party, however, warned that vaccine passports could be used as an exclusion tactic by landlords or employers.

“The vaccination passport may be relevant in certain contexts, but it should not become a tool of blackmail or discrimination,” MP Vincent Marissal said in a statement. The party has been asking since February for a parliamentary committee on the matter to deal with ethical issues.

The use of passports will depend on a multitude of factors such as hospitalization and death rates, levels of new variants and the number of epidemics in an area. But Dube said the government now aims for 80% of the population to receive two doses, an increase from the original 75% due to the rise of more transmissible variants.

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Quebec has a self-service site that allows citizens to download a copy of their proof of vaccination and print it if needed. It is available here.

rbruemmer@postmedia.com

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Michelle J. Kelley