Nova Scotia will require proof of vaccination for non-essential activities

Nova Scotia announced Wednesday that proof of full vaccinations will be required to participate in non-essential activities starting October 4, such as going to restaurants, bars, concerts, movies and fitness facilities.

“That gives us the best chance of staying open, once we’ve opened,” said Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health.

“We don’t want to shut down the province again.”

Strang said the system will apply to people aged 12 and over who want to participate in “social activities that bring people together” where COVID-19 “thriving”.

For children 11 and under, proof of vaccination will not be required as they are not eligible for COVID-19 vaccines. Children attending these events with a fully immunized person will be permitted to participate.

Strang said proof of vaccination will help keep communities safe, ensure children and young people can attend school safely, and protect the healthcare system and its providers.

Strang and Premier Tim Houston did not call the system a vaccine passport — a measure introduced in other jurisdictions that has sparked debate about privacy and personal freedom versus public health. However, there does not appear to be any difference between a vaccine passport and the Nova Scotia policy announced on Wednesday.

Premier Tim Houston, left, and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Strang are shown during the COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday, September 8, 2021. The two specifically did not use the words “vaccination passport” to describe evidence of vaccination policy. (Nova Scotia Communications)

“It’s a policy that will keep people safe, which is why we call it proof of vaccine policy,” Houston said.

Strang said Nova Scotians can already show proof of vaccination through the CANImmunize app, either by showing the screen or printing out the information. Until the province develops a digital option, CANImmunize will act as evidence.

What other provinces are doing

Nova Scotia is following the lead of several other Canadian provinces and territories that have already implemented or plan to roll out vaccine passports, including Yukon, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Houston, who was elected premier Aug. 17, said after his election he would turn to Strang and his team for advice on vaccine passports.

“It’s not a decision I’m qualified to make,” he said Aug. 18. “I need expert advice.”

Last month, a demonstration against vaccine passports took place in downtown Halifax and brought together about 100 people.

The province will reach phase 5 of the reopening on September 15

Nova Scotia also announced Wednesday that it will enter phase five of its reopening plan on September 15, by which time 75% of the population should be fully vaccinated. Houston said Wednesday that 72% of people had received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Phase five will see the elimination of mandatory indoor masking requirements and physical distancing requirements.

Strang said masking will be encouraged and businesses and organizations will be encouraged to implement their own rules.

Strang said if cases increased in a certain area or setting, mandatory masking would be reintroduced.

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Michelle J. Kelley