Should Quebec’s coronavirus situation deteriorate, the province may have to implement so-called “vaccination passports” to forbid people who aren’t fully vaccinated against COVID-19 from accessing certain non-essential services, like restaurants and bars.
Quebec’s health minister Christian Dubé shared the news during a press conference today, saying that the move could come as early as September 1. However, he assured that digital vaccine passports would only be introduced in the case of a possible fourth wave brought on by the spread of variants (like Delta) and once all eligible Quebecers have had the chance to receive two doses of the vaccine.
The health minister explained that such passports would prevent the province from having to impose yet another blanket lockdown on non-essential services, allowing certain industries — like hospitality — to remain open, albeit only catering to those who are doubly vaccinated.
With the announcement, the province seems to be angling to incentivize vaccine stragglers and resisters — especially those in the 18 to 29 age group, which at the moment has the lowest vaccination rate, at 67 percent — to get the jab. While Dubé acknowledged that getting vaccinated is ultimately a matter of choice, he warned that those who don’t could end up without access to certain activities.
So what exactly would this mean for restaurants, bars, and other businesses deemed “high-risk activities”? Dubé assured that the legwork on their part would be “minimal,” with the establishments likely being given access to an app that would scan QR codes containing customers’ proof of vaccination.
It’s unclear whether a scenario in which vaccine passports become mandatory in the fall would mean the end of current social distancing measures for restaurants and bars, i.e., maintaining two meters of distance or raised plexiglass between tables.
Yesterday, the province announced that as of July 12, required spacing protocols for indoor and outdoor spaces, including retail businesses, will decrease from two meters to one. Though the initial press release only explicitly cited “singing activities and high-intensity exercise in gyms” as exceptions to the rule change, an accompanying table suggests that current social distancing rules for restaurants and bars must also remain intact.