Meanwhile in Canada

Quebec’s vaccine passport goes into effect, limiting much of public life for those unvaccinated

Benjamin Shingler | CBC News | Posted: Wednesday, September 1, 2021, 12:00 AM AKDT | Last Updated: 17 hours ago

Province makes proof of adequate vaccination a requirement to take part in non-essential activities

Image | Miscellaneous

Caption: A customer scans her vaccination passport at a café in Montreal’s Villeray neighbourhood on Wednesday. Quebec’s vaccine passport system has gone into effect and will be enforced on Sept. 15. (Alex Leduc/CBC)

Starting today, proof of vaccination will be as much of a daily necessity in Quebec when leaving the house as a wallet or house keys.

Dubbed the COVID-19 vaccination passport, digital or paper documentation will be required to take part in much of public life, from having a beer to playing badminton.

Other provinces — including British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario — are poised to implement their own systems in the days and weeks to come.

In Quebec, the list of non-essential activities prohibited to those without a vaccine is wide-ranging: restaurants, movie theatres, gyms, team sports and indoor pools are all now off limits to those who aren’t adequately vaccinated, or granted a rare exemption for medical reasons. (A full list of places and activities where the passport applies is available hereexternal.)

Many public health experts have welcomed the passport as a useful tool to help contain the spread of COVID-19, particularly in congregate settings, and encourage people to get vaccinated, as Quebec and the rest of the country enters a fourth wave of the pandemic.

Image | Montreal 21 Aug

Caption: Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said the goal behind the province’s vaccine passport system is avoiding another round of COVID-19-related closures and restrictions. (CBC/Radio-Canada)

“People want to be vaccinated and they want to have a normal life,” Health Minister Christian Dubé said in announcing the system. “We went through hell in those first three waves.”

Observers are also keen to see how the system works in practice.

Being first out of the gate in Canada, Quebec’s approach could serve as a model for the country, said Kerry Bowman, a University of Toronto professor who teaches bioethics and global health.

In their scope, Bowman said such systems represent an “unprecedented” form of public health policy. He likened it to the Second World War in its emphasis on collective — rather than individual — rights.

But he worries that a system like the one in Quebec risks pushing unvaccinated people to the margins of society and further inflaming tensions. Others will get vaccinated, or already have, even though they don’t want to, in what amounts to a form of “coercion,” he said.

“Now, look, is it justified under this difficult emergency that we’re in? I hope it is.”

And particularly given the presence of the more transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus, Bowman added, a vaccine passport is not necessarily sufficient to end the pandemic.

“We’re kind of approaching it as if it’s this absolute firewall — and it’s not,” he said.

Image | Quebec’s vaccine passport goes into effect, barring unvaccinated from much of public life Image 2

Caption: Cases and hospitalizations have climbed once again, but Quebec is hoping to avoid another lockdown.

Countries and jurisdictions around the world — including the European Union, Israel and U.S. cities, like New York and San Francisco — have begun implementing vaccination credentials to varying degrees, whether for travel or daily life.

‘Passport to freedom’

While additional public measures will remain in place in Quebec after Sept. 1, Dubé has framed the system as a “passport to freedom” and a way to avoid another round of lockdown measures.

Dubé had warned for months such a system could be put into effect in the fall if COVID-19 cases climbed.

The provincial government has pointed to Quebec’s high vaccination rate as proof that the majority of people are on board with the system. Across Quebec, 86 per centexternal of residents over the age of 12 have received at least one dose of vaccine and 79 per cent have received both.

And the majority of those people have downloaded their government-issued quick-response (QR) code, which gives you proof of your vaccination status.

Image | Health Minister Christian Dubé

Caption: Dubé had warned in recent months that a vaccine passport system in the province was likely this fall. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Critics, however, have voiced concern about how the passport came to be and its reach going forward.

All three opposition parties at the province’s National Assembly called for a debate at the legislature, to hear from experts on the science and ethics of such a system.

Premier François Legault refused, saying he didn’t want to give a platform to conspiracy theorists.

The new rules are by decree, with the government still operating under a state of emergency that allows them to quickly put in place new rules without debate at the National Assembly.

In the days leading up to the launch of the vaccine passport, the QR codes of several prominent politicians were hacked.

The province is planning to update the app to address the issue.

“They are accustomed right now to governing by decree,” said Parti Québécois health critic Joël Arseneau. “And that has an impact on the level of preparation and the level of thinking ahead regarding problems that might occur.”

Lack of debate

Consultations could have helped ease concerns among vulnerable groups, such as seniors and undocumented workers, said Catherine Descoteaux, co-ordinator of the Quebec-based civil liberties group Ligue des droits et libertés.

She also pointed out that when the province initially floated the idea of a vaccine passport, it was limited only to areas with a high level of cases. In the end, it will be required across the province.

“This is a huge concern for us,” she said of the lack of parliamentary hearings.

Image | COVID Que Protest 20210828

Caption: People took part in a demonstration last weekend opposing the Quebec government’s public health measures to help curb the spread of COVID-19. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

With a policy such as this one, Bowman said the old cliché applies: “The devil is in the details.”

He said it will be worth watching exactly how the passport system will be enforced in the weeks and months to come.

Staff at restaurants and other businesses have a difficult task ahead, Bowman added.

“Are they trained for it? Do they have support for it? And in some cases — and we have seen this in Quebec and throughout the country and the world — they are likely going to be dealing with some very, very angry people,” he said.

“And so how all of that is going to be brokered is a big consideration.”

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Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine passport plan unveiled, won’t apply to retail

Lucas Powers, Adam Carter | CBC News | Posted: Wednesday, September 1, 2021, 3:42 AM AKDT | Last Updated: 3 hours ago

Plan goes into effect Sept. 22, digital verification app to follow on Oct. 22

Image | Miscellaneous

Caption: Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the implementation of a COVID-19 vaccine passport for the province on Wednesday. The system will come into effect on Sept. 22. (Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press)

Ontario residents will soon have to show proof they’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to dine indoors at restaurants and go to gyms and theatres — but not necessarily to enter retail locations — the province announced Wednesday.

The “enhanced COVID-19 vaccine certificate” system, as the Ontario government is calling it, will come into effect on Sept. 22.

At a news conference Wednesday, Premier Doug Ford said the new system came from “in-depth conversations” with experts based on “evidence and best advice.”

“We need to protect our hospitals; we need to avoid lockdowns at all costs. We want our kids in schools, and our businesses to stay open,” he said.

You can read the province’s entire plan in detail at the bottom of this story.

At first, fully vaccinated Ontarians will need their current vaccination receipt with a valid photo identification to enter premises covered under the new system.

The receipts can be printed or downloaded from the provincial government websiteexternal. “Fully vaccinated” here means having had two doses, with the most recent at least 14 days prior. Neither a recent COVID-19 infection nor a recent negative test will substitute for two shots, officials said at a morning briefing for media.

During the briefing, officials said the enhanced certificate system is meant to be temporary, though how long it remains in place will depend on how the fourth wave of the pandemic unfolds in coming months.

The government says that on Oct. 22, it will shift to certificates that include QR codes containing much of the same information included on the vaccination receipts that are already available. That shift will be accompanied by the release of a “verification app” that can be used to validate the QR codes and provide the vaccination status of an individual.

Officials said the purpose of the app is to relieve businesses and facilities from having to determine whether a patron has been vaccinated or not.

WATCH | Ontario officials unveil proof-of-vaccination system:

Media Video | Ontario to introduce vaccine certificate by Sept. 22

Caption: Ontario Premier Doug Ford, responding to intense pressure, is introducing a COVID-19 vaccine certificate, which will limit residents’ entry to certain non-essential businesses.

The intention is that the enhanced certificates be usable in other provinces with vaccine passport systems in place, and eventually for them to be integrated with the federal passport for international travel, officials said.

“We need to be proactive to avoid reactive closures,” said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore Wednesday. He said this also will be an incentive for more people to get vaccinated.

“Immunization is key to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our most vulnerable.”

Embed | Ontario: New daily cases of COVID-19

Where will proof be needed?

The vaccine certificate system will cover “higher-risk” indoor spaces where masks can’t be worn at all times, officials said. It applies to the following settings:

  • Restaurants and bars (excluding outdoor patios, delivery and takeout).
  • Nightclubs, including outdoor areas.
  • Meeting and event spaces like banquet halls and convention centres.
  • Sports and fitness facilities and gyms, with the exception of youth recreational sports.
  • Sporting events.
  • Casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments.
  • Concerts, music festivals, theatres and cinemas.
  • Strip clubs, bath houses and sex clubs.
  • Racing venues.

System doesn’t apply to employees

The vaccine certificate system does not apply to employees in these settings.

Essential retail, like grocery stores, are exempt, as are places of worship and hair salons, alongside other personal care businesses. Health Minister Christine Elliott stressed Wednesday that “at no time” will people be denied medical care or food from grocery stores, regardless of vaccine status.

The system also exempts children who are ineligible for vaccines (those born in 2010 and later in Ontario) and provides for personal medical exemptions that will be reflected in the impending QR codes, officials said.

The verification app will be made available to all businesses, allowing non-essential retailers not covered in the listed settings to implement their own vaccination policies for patrons, officials said.

Image | Barbershop reopens

Caption: A patron gets a haircut at Queen West Barbers on June 30. Essential retail settings are exempt from the province’s new system, as are hair salons, barber shops and other personal care businesses, alongside places of worship. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Enforcement measures for the certificate system will fall under the Reopening Ontario Act, officials said. Businesses, facilities and individuals who refuse to comply can face fines.

There are still several critical elements of the plan under development, officials said, and more specific guidance is expected in the coming days and weeks.

Asked why retail settings are not included in this plan, Moore said that the province is trying to be as “evidence-based as possible” in its decision-making.

“The venues we have chosen are responsive to the risk we’ve found in Ontario,” he said. If cases rise in other venues, he said more restrictions can be added.

Move comes after days of deliberations

The changes come after two days of deliberations by the premier and his cabinet. A source with knowledge of the discussions told CBC/Radio-Canada that an initial proposal readied on Monday had been rejected.

Sources said last week that some members of the Progressive Conservative cabinet were against the province implementing its own vaccine certificate system like those introduced in Quebec, B.C. and Manitoba.

Until recently, Ford and Elliott had both repeatedly said that Ontario would not follow the initiatives taken in other provinces. Earlier this summer, Ford told reporters he thought a vaccine passport would create a “split society.”

The pair also insisted that the vaccine receipts currently available from the province would be a suitable alternative to a passport system.

Critics have said the receipts are susceptible to forgery, and officials at the briefing tacitly acknowledged as much, saying QR codes would be more secure.

Image | HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/CANADA

Caption: A health-care worker administers a vaccine at a pop-up vaccine clinic at Toronto’s Woodbine Racetrack in May. Provincial officials again asked Wednesday that any Ontarian who has not yet been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to get their shot. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

Pressure mounting as 4th wave continues

Pressure has mounted on Ford and his government from a myriad of physicians, infectious disease specialists and business groups to institute such a system as the province navigates a fourth wave of the pandemic.

Ford said Wednesday that it is “no secret” that he “wasn’t in favour of this,” but he decided it was necessary based on advice from the province’s medical officer of health.

“This is something that I did not want to do … I know this is going to be very difficult for some people,” Ford said.

Asked why he only chose to act now after months of calls for some sort of proof-of-vaccination system, Ford pointed fingers at the federal government, saying his decision was prompted in part by the fact that there would be no national vaccine passport.

That comment from Ford drew a swift rebuke Wednesday from Bill Blair, a Liberal cabinet minister and the party’s candidate for Toronto’s Scarborough Southwest riding in the upcoming federal election.

“The premier has been late to announce vaccine passports in Ontario. His comment today that he asked the federal government to bring in a national vaccine passport is untrue … In fact, Premier Ford asked the federal government to stay out of domestic vaccine passports. Premier Ford has only ever asked for an international version for international travel,” Blair said in a statement.

“From the very beginning, Premier Ford has made a series of errors in judgment in managing the pandemic, and the people of Ontario have had to pay the price. Ontarians know that.”

Business group disappointed

In a statement issued after Ford’s news conference, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) said the province’s announcement provides some clarity on a new system for small business owners, but also leaves many concerns and questions unanswered.

Chief among them, the statement says, are issues around fraud, enforcement, training for businesses that have to check credentials, and how shops will recognize out-of-province and out-of-country vaccinations.

The CFIB also said that it is “disappointing” that the province is adding more requirements without first removing capacity restrictions for businesses.

It is calling on the government to provide additional aid to businesses to offset costs that may be incurred by the new rules.

Risk higher for unvaccinated people, officials say

Millions of students in Ontario are also set to return to classrooms next week, with children born in 2010 and later still not eligible to be vaccinated against the virus. The highly infectious delta variant continues to circulate in Ontario, although indicators show its spread has slowed in recent weeks.

As of Tuesday, 76.4 per cent of eligible Ontarians had received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines, or roughly 67.7 per cent of the province’s total population.

Officials said today the latest data suggests that unvaccinated people have a seven-fold higher risk of developing COVID-19 symptoms than those with both shots. Moreover, unvaccinated people have a 27-fold higher risk of ending up in hospital and a 42-fold higher risk of needing intensive care.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist in Toronto and former member of Ontario’s now-disbanded COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force, applauded the introduction of a passport system but cautioned that it is not a panacea for ending the pandemic.

“Vaccine passports will not end the pandemic. They will not create perfectly safe indoor spaces,” he said in a series of Twitter posts. “They are an added layer of protection to help create safer indoor spaces.”

Western provinces driving Canada’s 4th COVID-19 wave as physicians warn cases ‘out of control’

Lauren Pelley | CBC News | Posted: Wednesday, September 1, 2021, 12:00 AM AKDT | Last Updated: 22 hours ago

High infection rates put pressure on hospitals, but health precautions a patchwork

Media | Miscellaneous

Caption: There is growing concern in Western Canada as COVID-19 cases increase, and though B.C. has reinstated a mask mandate and vaccine passport, Alberta and Saskatchewan don’t appear to be looking at making any changes.

Canada’s western provinces are largely driving the country’s fourth wave of COVID-19 cases, and physicians are now raising the alarm — saying lax and late public health measures helped spark a rise in serious infections that’s already putting pressure on hospitals and impacting patient care.

In British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, infection rates are high above the country’s average and far beyond every province to the east, including Ontario, whose population is larger than all three westernmost provinces combined.

The rate of cases in the last seven days in B.C. was 93 per 100,000 people as of Aug. 30, federal data shows, with Alberta’s rate at 159 and Saskatchewan’s at 135 — with no province to the east hitting more than 43.

In terms of raw case growth, Alberta currently has the most new infections in the country, with more than 7,000 cases reported in one week.

The province is now in the early stages of postponing surgeries and transferring patients to help boost capacity, but it has yet to reinstate major public health measures or bring in a vaccine mandate to curb case growth as the fast-spreading delta variant surges across much of the country.

“Things are going very poorly. They’re only going to get worse,” said Dr. Ilan Schwartz, an infectious diseases clinician and researcher at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

“And the time for intervention was yesterday — or realistically, weeks ago — and if nothing is done, it’s only going to continue to spiral out of control.”

Embed | Active COVID-19 cases by province & territory

400-plus Albertans in hospital with COVID-19

In Alberta, it’s growing clear that rising vaccination rates couldn’t ward off a spike in serious infections driven by the delta variant — largely among unvaccinated residents — that are now putting pressure on the province’s hospitals.

There are currently more than 400 people being treated in hospital for COVID-19, including 98 in intensive care beds. Provincial data shows that all but two of those severe ICU cases are among people who aren’t fully vaccinated.

“We’re going to see the exact same thing we saw in the winter of last year, which is hospitals are filling up, ICUs are filling up, and it’s going to lead to a number of consequences,” Schwartz said.

On Sunday, Alberta Health Services transferred six patients out of one Grande Prairie hospital to neighbouring facilities due to an increase in COVID-19 patients requiring acute care.

Image | Alta Nurses Action 20210811

Caption: Nurses and supporters rally in front of the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton on Aug. 11 during an information picket against cutbacks by the Alberta government. A spike in serious COVID-19 infections driven by the delta variant is putting pressure on the province’s hospitals. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Just two days earlier, the health authority announced it was taking steps to boost acute and ICU capacity in the province’s hospital system — which would mean postponing some non-urgent surgeries and procedures.

Dr. Aisha Mirza, who works in the emergency department at Grey Nuns Community Hospital in Edmonton, recently told CBC’s As It Happens that her facility is among those already feeling the impact of rising infection rates among mostly unvaccinated Albertans.

“People are in the waiting room way too long. That’s not normal. I’m showing up to a shift and hearing that there are five nurses short,” she said.

“Now, I don’t know if that’s because they’re sick, they’re leaving the province, they’re leaving acute care in general or they’re just burned out. But we’re short — and now we don’t have beds to use for those patients that are in the waiting room.”

WATCH | Kenney, Hinshaw quiet amid rising COVID-19 cases in Alberta:

Media Video | Kenney, Hinshaw quiet amid rising COVID-19 cases in Alberta

Caption: With Alberta seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases Premier Jason Kenney and Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw have been silent amid calls to reinstate public health restrictions, leading some businesses to take action on their own.

Sask. hospitals on cusp of ‘getting crushed’

Alberta officials said in mid-August that due to higher-than-expected hospitalizations, the province would be hitting pause on its polarizing decision to lift further public health measures.

But at this point, there’s no provincial mask mandate in place, and Schwartz said there are “no signs” the province plans to implement one or put in place other restrictions, such as a vaccine passport, to try to curb case growth.

“Albertans have really been left on their own and also left in the dark,” he said.

“I think those who aren’t at the hospitals, in the ICUs, seeing this in front of their eyes are going to be surprised — and they’re going to think this is something that happened really suddenly, but of course that’s not the case. This is happening in painful slow motion.”

It’s a similar situation in Saskatchewan, said Regina-based infectious diseases specialist Dr. Alexander Wong, where public health measures remain lifted while cases are spiking — with more than 110 people now in hospital for COVID-19 across the province.

“We’re literally on the cusp of our hospitals and ICUs getting crushed,” he warned.

Image | FBO CFL Lions Roughriders 20210806

Caption: COVID-19 and the delta variant didn’t deter more than 33,000 Saskatchewan Roughriders fans from packing Mosaic Stadium in Regina on Aug. 6 for a game against the B.C. Lions. Public health measures remain lifted while cases are spiking in the province. (Kayle Neis/The Canadian Press)

As of Monday morning, ICUs at hospitals in three Saskatchewan cities were full, which could be because of rising COVID-19 cases, said Dr. Jeffrey Betcher, critical care lead with the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

Local hospitals simply don’t have the space or staff to juggle both a surge of serious COVID-19 infections and everyone else who needs care, Wong said.

“It’s a perfect storm now. Everyone is burned out, tired, we can’t find staff… It’s not like it was last March, when all the elective stuff stopped.”

B.C. bringing in mask mandate, vaccine passport

A combination of measures is required to beat back this delta-driven wave, Wong said, including boosting vaccination rates, wearing masks, physical distancing and avoiding large gatherings.

Physicians in Saskatchewan are calling for the return of public health measures and the creation of vaccine passports to access certain businesses — but so far, the province is holding off.

On Monday, Premier Scott Moe called the notion of a government-mandated vaccine passport “heavy handed,” instead saying he backs businesses launching their own programs.

Meanwhile, in B.C., where there are more active cases reported than in either Ontario or Quebec, officials are taking major steps toward tighter restrictions.

The province is bringing back a mask mandate in public places and at events, and it’s implementing a strict vaccine passport programexternal that will prove the holder’s immunization status.

“Neither of those things are going to be immediately effective,” said Dr. Srinivas Murthy, an infectious diseases specialist and clinical associate professor in pediatrics at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

“I think we have some challenges with the timing of our interventions, like letting loose of the mask mandates earlier in the summer, then reinstituting them.”

Image | COVID-19 vaccine surrey

Caption: A health worker administers a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Surrey, B.C., in May. The province is bringing back a mask mandate in public places and at events, and it’s implementing a strict vaccine passport program that will prove the holder’s immunization status. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

So is it all too little, too late? That’s the fear now — that any measures taken at this point, as cases are surging across Western Canada, won’t prevent many of the serious infections expected in the weeks ahead.

Even B.C. officials themselves acknowledged during a Tuesday modelling presentation that the more likely scenario is a plateauing of cases and hospitalizations in that province, or even a slight increase, rather than a dramatic drop in reported infections.

B.C.'s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, and Health Minister Adrian Dix also said that in order to bring down case counts and hospitalizations before October, the vaccination rate will need to increase by an average of seven per cent across all age groups.

“We’re kind of getting to the desperation phase,” Wong said. “It hasn’t come remotely close to when it’s going to be at its very worst.”

Off topic post - Deleted.

Apparently news that FDA officials are resigning over the way the vaccine rollout is being handled is ‘Off topic’. But this thread is not. This thread is in the ‘Professional Mariner’ section, not Scuttlebutt. I fall to see how it’s on topic yet news of FDA officials resigning is not.

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Note the title of the topic thread is CANADA. FDA officials resigning in the US (over booster shot timing) has nothing to do with what is happening north of the border. That is why your post was edited.

There’s not a single thing relating to maritime in the thread, it’s a vaccine passport thread and you know it. My post was perfectly on topic. Just because you don’t like contemplating on what FDA officials resigning in protest might mean doesn’t make it otherwise.

Which companies require vaccines is relevant to the forum members but endless discussions about vaccines in general is pointless.

Closing this thread and going to delete any posts/threads about vaccines not directly related employment.

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