British Columbia

B.C. business community looks for more guidance on proof-of-vaccine rollout

On Monday, the province announced its plan to require proof of vaccine for anyone who wants to attend a concert, sporting event, movie, restaurant, nightclub, casino or fitness class.

Questions about enforcement, privacy raised by business owners throughout B.C.

On July 2, B.C. eased indoor organized seated gatherings to allow 50 per cent capacity with no masks required. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

B.C.'s newly announced proof of vaccine program has businesses wondering how they're supposed to enforce it, and how it's going to work.

On Monday, the province announced its plan to require proof-of-vaccine for anyone who wants to attend a concert, sporting event, movie, restaurant, nightclub, casino or fitness class.

"I think in general, the business community has called for this," Health Minister Adrian Dix said Tuesday. 

"But more importantly, it'll keep people safer. We see most of the transmission amongst unvaccinated people in social settings, and this action directly focuses on that."

He said the order will be in effect until January 2022. 

WATCH | Premier John Horgan announces proof of vaccination plan

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B.C. has followed Quebec's lead and will implement a vaccine passport system to access non-essential services.

Jill Nadon, the owner of The Beat Studio in Burnaby, said she's disappointed businesses weren't given a heads up about the change before the official announcement. 

"We understand, as business owners, our responsibility in helping them roll these procedures out, but we need time to train our staff and figure out what that looks like in our establishments," she told Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC's The Early Edition.

However, she's happy to oblige, knowing it will protect her and her staff. 

"It's kind of an alternative right now to potentially being shut down again."

The new B.C. vaccine cards will be implemented on Sept. 13. (David Horemans/CBC)

Todd Corrigal, the CEO of the Prince George Chamber of Commerce agrees, and says he feels it's a necessary step in order for British Columbians to move forward in this pandemic. 

"If you choose to remain unvaccinated, you can still access the supports and systems that are required in your day-to-day life," he told Carolina de Ryk, the host of CBC's Daybreak North. "But the additional benefits will be removed unless you move forward with your vaccine."

In nearby Dawson Creek, where the vaccination rate is about 45 per cent, businesses feel that asking customers for proof of their vaccination status is a burden. Dawson Creek Chamber of Commerce executive director Kathleen Connolly said businesses are asking whether employees need to be vaccinated and how staff are expected to manage asking for vaccination records.

"There's not a lot of confidence in how it's going to be rolled out effectively and efficiently for those business owners," she said. 

Fitness spaces across B.C. were ordered to suspend indoor group activities over the past 18 months in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Nadon's concerns are primarily focused on privacy — she wonders if they'll be able to store clients' information, because as a fitness studio, they often have repeat customers, or if they'll have to check each and every time a person walks through the door. 

Wendy Sinclair, who co-owns Eastside Fitness in Vancouver, has the same concern. She also wonders if they'll be able to just ask someone and take them at their word, or if they'll have to physically check identification. She said her staff are busy enough as it is, and this would just be something else to add to the list. 

Corrigal said it's important that businesses aren't expected to enforce vaccination requirements. 

"These aren't peace officers. They're not sworn to protect the public. So, the government's going to have to devise how that's managed," he said. 

Connolly said the onus is on the B.C. government to use informative, clear messaging around the importance and efficacy of vaccines moving forward. 

"For those who aren't anti-vaxxers but who feel they need more information to feel comfortable about a vaccine, this is the opportunity for government to really come in and reassure and provide that information that makes sense to those that still haven't participated," she said. 

Dix said he's hopeful that one of the consequences of the proof-of-vaccine program is that it will encourage people to get vaccinated. 

"We're trying to target our measures to have the most effect on transmission. We see that the vast majority of cases involve people who are unvaccinated in B.C.," he said.

With files from The Early Edition and Daybreak North

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