Calgary

Wide range of 'essential services' won't be eligible for Alberta proof-of-vaccination program

Alberta's government has clarified what businesses it considers essential services, and will therefore not be exempt from restrictions if they choose to opt in to the proof-of-vaccination program on Monday.

Retail, worksites, schools, health and personal services among those not eligible for restriction exemptions

A printed copy of an individual's Alberta COVID-19 immunization record. (Sarah Rieger/CBC)

Alberta's government has clarified what businesses it considers essential services, and will therefore not be exempt from restrictions if they choose to opt in to the proof-of-vaccination program on Monday.

Starting Monday, non-essential businesses and services can choose to require proof of vaccination for customers. Those who opt out have to adhere to capacity and operating restrictions.

The list of eligible businesses, which includes restaurants, clubs, casinos and movie theatres, was originally set to include retail. 

But over the weekend, Alberta Health said that retail stores would no longer be eligible to participate — meaning even if they implement proof-of-vaccination, they'll still be subject to capacity limits.

Businesses not eligible to participate in the restrictions exemption program now include:

  • Private events. 
  • Retail and shopping malls.
  • Food courts.
  • Health, personal and wellness services.
  • Libraries.
  • Workers at a worksite for the purpose of their employment.
  • K-12 schools, publicly funded post-secondary institutions and First Nation colleges. Post-secondaries will fall under a separate, sector-specific exemption.
  • Places of worship.
  • Hotels.

Masks will be required in all indoor public spaces, regardless of whether they are participating in the program.

Details on how the restriction exemption program will work are available on the government's website.

Business owner taken by surprise

Kyle Bordage, owner of Imaginary Wars Gaming and Hobbies, said on Sunday he was surprised to hear the restriction exemption program had changed to no longer include retail.

"We had thought now that things were opening up we could have some small group activities in here, now that's not the case. It was a punch to the gut because I thought I was on top of all of this," he said.

His store has carefully restricted capacity but he had hoped to safely hold some tabletop gaming events once restrictions allowed.

"There's this real camaraderie that brings people together," he said. "With everyone double-vaccinated, everyone in the store wearing masks, it looked like for once the people who had been very, very careful were able to exercise the rights that come with being very, very careful. But now it looks like not at all, everyone gets punished."

The Alberta government launched its vaccine record website on Sunday, which allows people to save or print their COVID-19 immunization status by entering their health-care number, date of vaccination, and date of birth. 

However, the medium in which the vaccine records were made available — an insecure PDF rather than a QR code or app — has been subject to criticism.

With files from Terri Trembath

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