Facing onset of 4th wave of COVID-19 infections, Quebec to implement vaccine passport system

Quebec will implement a vaccine passport system in the coming weeks, Premier François Legault announced today.

Details of the system will be released soon, Legault said. But he said the rising case numbers in Quebec and the prospect of more hospitalizations and deaths have made the vaccine passport system necessary.

The system will allow the province to avoid the widespread closures that have marked its pandemic response to date, he said.

“People who made the effort to get their two doses should be able to live a somewhat normal life,” Legault said.

France, Italy already have vaccine passport systems in place. New York City will begin implementing a system later this month.

Earlier this week, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said people in Quebec who are not fully vaccinated may see themselves shut out of places and activities deemed “high” or “moderate” risk — such as gyms, team sports and theatres, for example — as an alternative to a generalized lockdown.

WATCH | Quebec to introduce vaccine passports: 

With COVID-19 cases rising in Quebec, Premier François Legault says the province will introduce a vaccine passport to reward people who get the shots. 0:45

Delta variant a factor in implementing passport system

Legault says although the province is on track to achieving its goal of fully vaccinating 75 per cent of the eligible population by September, the highly contagious delta variant risks spiking hospitalizations.  

In a tweet Thursday, Dubé said people who were not vaccinated or who only received their first dose in the past 14 days comprise 62 per cent of new COVID-19 cases.

“The rise in cases is worrisome,” Dubé wrote. “We can speak of the beginning of a fourth wave.”

Last week, Quebec was still averaging around 100 new cases per day. On Thursday it recorded 305 new cases.

Prativa Baral, an epidemiologist and doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said because the more contagious delta variant is now spreading in Quebec, the government no longer has the luxury of waiting to convince stragglers of the merits of vaccination.

“Because of delta, we have to be strategic. It’s time to do it now,” Baral said of the passport system.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, seen seated at left, and Legault, right, talk with a family prior to making a child-care funding announcement in Montreal on Thursday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

More provinces may get vaccine passports 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was at the Montreal news conference with Legault to announce federal funding for Quebec day care services, says he fully supports Quebec’s decision, and is looking to implement vaccine passports in other interested provinces to facilitate international travel.

He says he and the clerk of the privy council are evaluating how federal government employees and workers in industries regulated by the federal government, such as airlines, may be required to get vaccinated. 

“Canadians have understood that you need to get vaccinated to get through the pandemic. It’s not just a question of individual choice, it’s about protecting the community,” Trudeau said.

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