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Restaurants Are Likely to Be Among Non-Essential Services Mandated to Check Proof of Vaccination in Quebec

Legault confirms the province will move ahead with vaccine passports, as a fourth wave of coronavirus looms

Bloomberg via Getty Images

It may not be much longer before diners are obliged to produce proof of vaccination to enter a restaurant in Quebec, per an announcement Premier François Legault made Thursday morning.

Speaking at a news conference in Montreal, Legault said that the ongoing surge in coronavirus cases has prompted the province to decide to adopt so-called “vaccine passports” for access to certain non-essential services, but refrained from delving into the details just yet.

Health minister Christian Dubé will share the specifics on which services will be affected and in what capacity in the coming days. However, Legault did namecheck restaurants a couple of times, at one point saying, “The people who made the effort to get their two doses need to be able to live a quasi-normal life, and have access to non-essential activities, like going to the restaurant.”

A government news release published last month about the eventual possibility of a vaccine passport mandate in Quebec corroborates as much, specifying restaurants and bars as examples of high-risk settings where the measure is likely to be adopted. At the moment, it is unclear whether proof of vaccination would be required for both indoor and outdoor dining, and whether children aged 12 and under would be exempt, given that they aren’t eligible for vaccination.

When Dubé floated the prospect of vaccine passports last month, he said the step could be taken as early as September 1, should the province’s epidemiological situation worsen. Though a schedule for introducing the now-confirmed measure hasn’t been set, it seems the time may have come sooner than expected.

Quebec reported 305 new COVID-19 cases today, surpassing the 300 mark for the first time since May 30, 2021. Legault said that he expects an uptick in coronavirus-related hospitalizations and deaths as the province enters a delta-driven fourth wave and stressed the importance of Quebecers getting vaccinated.

Those who’ve received two doses of the coronavirus vaccine will now be given “certain privileges,” Legault said. As of today, that accounts for 67 percent of the population eligible for vaccination.

Implementing a vaccine passport requirement for restaurants would help protect workers from coming into close contact with unmasked and unvaccinated diners when the highly contagious delta variant poses an escalating threat to their safety on a daily basis. It would also shift the burden off of restaurants, like Old Montreal’s Chez Éric & Fils, who’ve mulled taking the step themselves in the absence of government intervention. A mandate requiring proof of vaccination could also prevent another sweeping shutdown — roughly just two months after indoor dining was permitted to resume in Montreal.

The news comes days after New York City instated its own mandate requiring proof of vaccination, becoming the first American city to do so.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who stood alongside Legault during today’s news conference (predominantly about funding for Quebec daycares), said that he supports Legault’s decision and is looking into potentially doing the same for other provinces.