The Quebec government is requiring proof of vaccination from anyone hoping to eat — or drink — out in the province as of September 1.
Quebec’s health minister Christian Dubé today shared details regarding the province’s soon-to-be-established COVID-19 vaccine passport system, which premier François Legault announced last week. He confirmed that restaurants and bars are among the non-essential businesses that will be required to verify that customers have received both doses of the coronavirus vaccine next month.
“Given the recent increase in cases, the coming fall with the return to work and school and the expected prevalence of the Delta variant, the conditions are in place to deploy the vaccine passport.,” Dubé said, adding that a fourth wave of the virus in Quebec had become “inevitable.” A vaccine passport, he said, would help mitigate hospitalizations, while also hopefully ensuring another wholesale shutdown of non-essential businesses isn’t needed.
The system would require restaurants and bars to scan QR codes containing customers’ proof of vaccination via a forthcoming smartphone application. Quebecers who do not have access to a smartphone can provide paper proof, Dubé said.
The province will begin testing the application in a pilot project that starts tomorrow at an outpost of sports bar La Cage in Quebec City. After completing additional testing at other establishments and working out any kinks, Dubé says the province will likely be in a position to reveal the application on August 23, giving business owners a week before they are required to use it. (Participation in pilot projects is voluntary, and no one will be denied access to participating businesses until September 1.)
Visitors to Quebec — including fully vaccinated Americans who, as of yesterday, were allowed back into the country for non-essential travel via land borders — will also need to provide proof of vaccination to enter restaurants and bars starting September 1, Dubé said, though added that the province is still in talks to figure out how that would work.
While workers are likely to feel relieved to know the chance of contracting COVID-19 from a diner will drastically reduce come September, risks do remain. Notably, children under 12 — who in September will be returning to school, where they risk transmitting the virus — won’t have to provide any proof of vaccination for entry into a restaurant since they aren’t yet even eligible to receive it. And, despite the threat of workplace transmission, Dubé says the province does not plan to mandate a vaccination requirement for restaurant and bar employees — as is the case in New York City — because that would violate existing labour laws. “The law is very clear on employees, and there is a code, a right for employees to work,” he said, though added that an exception could potentially be made for healthcare workers.
As of today, 70 percent of those eligible to be vaccinated in Quebec have received their second dose, 84 percent have had their first, and with the coronavirus vaccine passport now clearly in sight, more may be compelled to join them. At least, that seemed to be the case last week, after Legault first made the vaccine passport announcement, and the number of vaccine bookings reportedly doubled.