People in Quebec who aren’t fully vaccinated could be denied access to certain activities in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak, starting in September.
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé outlined a plan on Thursday to introduce COVID-19 passports on a limited basis, saying they would help avoid widespread lockdowns.
Dubé said the plan would not be implemented until every Quebecer has been given the chance to receive two doses of a vaccine. He stressed proof of vaccination would only be needed in regions that experience outbreaks.
Still, some fear an infringement on fundamental rights.
While the intention may be to encourage more people to get vaccinated before a fourth wave hits, Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist at the University of Toronto, said vaccine passports raise ethical concerns as they “absolutely come with an element of surveillance to them.”
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However, Vardit Ravitsky, a bioethicist who teaches at Université de Montréal and Harvard Medical School, said she thinks announcing the plan early was a good move and will encourage people to get vaccinated — something she said could prevent the passport’s use entirely.
She said it’s the right approach to require proof of vaccination for specific locations and to lift the health order when an outbreak is over.
“This is such a targeted … finely nuanced proposition that it really takes care of all the worries that we sometimes have about discrimination, because it’s not meant to punish those who are not vaccinated,” she said.
“It’s meant to protect the health-care system while protecting our economy.”
She said it’s reasonable to prevent someone who chose not to get vaccinated from visiting a bar for a specific period of time. “The limitations that they will face will be so minor, that I think for the common good, it’s a very reasonable, proportional idea.”
In a news release Thursday, the province’s health department didn’t provide a concrete list of places where the vaccine passport would be required, but suggested it could be used at bars, gyms, restaurants, sporting events and festivals.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 6:52 p.m. ET on Friday, Canada had reported 1,419,964 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 5,438 considered active. National deaths stood at 26,419. More than 41.8 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered so far across the country, according to CBC’s vaccine tracker.
In British Columbia, health officials announced 45 more cases and no deaths Friday.
There were no deaths reported Friday in Alberta, either. The province said there were 52 new cases of the virus.
The Calgary Stampede officially kicked off Friday morning, returning after being cancelled last year for the first time in almost a century due to the pandemic.
New safety measures include cutting daily attendance in half, sanitation stations for the public and enhanced cleaning throughout the grounds. Staff and volunteers are required to wear masks and get COVID-19 rapid tests.
Officials in Manitoba reported 72 new cases and three additional deaths on Friday.
Saskatchewan reported 36 new cases of COVID-19 and one death Friday.
The province said the rise in cases is “largely attributable” to the previously reported outbreak at the Hatchet Lake Denesuline First Nation, which is located about 850 kilometres north of Saskatoon, near Wollaston Lake.
In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia logged one more case on Friday.
New Brunswick reported no new cases or deaths from COVID-19 on Friday. The province has vaccinated 79.1 per cent of its eligible population with at least one dose and 47.5 per cent with two doses.
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Newfoundland and Labrador on Friday confirmed two more cases of COVID-19 aboard the Iver Ambition cargo ship, currently anchored in Conception Bay.
This brings the total of confirmed positive cases aboard the ship to 14 of its crew members. All of them are still isolating on the ship, and there is no risk to the community, the Department of Health said in a media release.
Prince Edward Island reported no new cases on Friday. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said point-of-entry testing rules have been adjusted so that a COVID-19 test will not be required for anyone from within Atlantic Canada who has a PEI Pass. There has been no decision yet on how people from outside Atlantic Canada will be handled once they can enter the province with a PEI Pass as of July 18.
The province has also dropped the mandatory wearing of masks indoors. People will not be required to wear masks in most indoor spaces, but they will be encouraged to, based on vaccine status, personal heath status and the setting, Morrison said.
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Across the North on Thursday, there were no new cases reported in Nunavut or the Northwest Territories, but Yukon recorded 10 new infections.
In Quebec, health officials on Friday reported 77 new cases, as well as one additional death that occurred prior to the last 24 hours.
Ontario registered 183 new cases of COVID-10 and nine new deaths on Friday, a day after government officials announced that more than 50 per cent of adults in the province have had two vaccine doses. The province will further lift COVID-19 restrictions ahead of schedule on July 16, allowing for larger indoor and outdoor gatherings and for gyms and indoor dining to re-open.
What’s happening around the world
As of early Friday evening, more than 185.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, according to a tracker from Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than four million.
In the Middle East, U.N. children’s agency UNICEF says more than 1.4 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses will be delivered to Afghanistan on Friday as the country battles a third wave of infections. The COVID-19 vaccines are being donated by the United States and delivered through the U.N.-backed COVAX program. Since the third wave started last month, the country has averaged more than 2,000 new confirmed cases a day.
Having escaped the worst when the pandemic erupted last year, Southeast Asia is now suffering dramatic rises in deaths and cases, while vaccination shortfalls and highly contagious variants derail containment efforts.
Indonesia will impose emergency restrictions in some areas outside of Java and Bali islands to curb the spread of COVID-19, a senior minister said on Friday.
The emergency measures will be similar to those in place on Bali and Java and will impact 15 cities in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua, chief economic minister Airlangga Hartarto told a news conference.
In the Americas, U.S. health officials say vaccinated teachers and students don’t need to wear masks inside school buildings. The guidance, announced Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, generally leaves it to local officials to figure out how to ensure the unvaccinated are using precautions while letting those who are fully protected go mask-free.
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In Europe, France’s health minister on Friday said the more contagious delta variant of the coronavirus will probably account for a majority of new COVID-19 cases in the country, starting this weekend.
Olivier Veran said the variant now represents nearly 50 per cent of new infections. He has said that a fourth wave of COVID-19 could hit France as early as the end of July and is urging as many people as possible to get vaccinated.
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