What we know about Alberta's new vaccine passport (that's not being called a passport) so far

Starting Monday, Albertans will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test in order to gain entry to many businesses and venues.

Restrictions exemption program takes effect Sept. 20 and will impact businesses like gyms and restaurants

Businesses will be able to operate 'as usual,' the government says, as long as they are serving only those who have proof of immunization or who have a recent privately paid for negative test. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Starting Monday, Albertans will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test in order to gain entry to many businesses and venues.

Alberta currently has more than 19,000 active cases — the most of any province. As of Friday, there were 911 people in hospital with the illness, including 215 in intensive care.

After months of rejecting the premise of a vaccine passport, Premier Jason Kenney announced the sweeping new measures to combat the COVID-19 surge on Sept. 15, but under a different name: the restrictions exemption program.

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As of Sept. 20, some businesses and venues will have the option of requiring proof of vaccinations for patrons who wish to access their services — or opting out of the program and having to adhere to a strict set of capacity and operating restrictions.

But the restrictions for businesses that opt out will vary, and some Albertans have expressed confusion about what documentation they will need to provide and how to access it.

A full list of restrictions and exemptions is available on the government's website, but here are some of the broader strokes about how the program works.

When will Albertans need to begin showing proof of vaccination?

Lana Weatherdon, 43, receives the AstraZeneca vaccine from Lee Buzzell-Lavoie at the Telus Convention Centre immunization site in Calgary on April 20. (Leah Hennel/AHS)

Starting Sept. 19, vaccine-eligible Albertans have to prove they have had at least one dose to access services in the province that decide to take part in the restriction exemption program — and that dose must have been administered at least two weeks before the time of service.

After Oct. 25, proof of two doses will be required.

I'm a business. Do I need to register for this program?

Nope, but the government says there will be audits and enforcement to ensure rules are followed.

I'm a vaccinated Albertan. What can I use as proof of vaccination and where can I find it?

Albertans can show the paper immunization record they received at the time of vaccination.

If you lost your paper copy, you can print it online at MyHealthRecords, or request another copy by contacting the pharmacy or clinic where you were vaccinated.

The Alberta government says work is also underway to make proof-of-vaccination available through a QR code 'in the coming weeks.' (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

You can also now print a smaller card that is available on MyHealthRecords and shows proof of vaccination to keep in your wallet.

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Alternatively, a digital copy of vaccine records is available on the MyHealthRecords smart phone app, and the government advises saving a copy on your phone.

The government says work is also underway to make proof of vaccination available through a QR code "in the coming weeks."

I'm an unvaccinated Albertan. What do I need if I plan to go out?

You'll need to plan ahead.

Unvaccinated Albertans will have to show valid ID in addition to a negative COVID-19 PCR or rapid test result, done by a private company, and it must have been completed within 72 hours of going out.

The government stipulates that tests must not be from Alberta Health Services or Alberta Precision Laboratories.

What will happen for businesses that implement the program?

They will be able to operate "as usual," the government says, as long as they are serving only those who have proof of immunization or who have a recent privately paid negative test.

However, masking restrictions will remain mandatory throughout the province.

What restrictions will apply to restaurants, bars and nightclubs that don't take part in the program?

Indoor dining will not be permitted, but a maximum of six people per table — composed of one household, or two close contacts for those who live alone — will be allowed to eat outside. 

Liquor sales must end at 10 p.m., while consumption must end by 11 p.m.

What restrictions will apply to indoor entertainment, event and rec centres that don't take part in the program?

Attendance will be restricted to one-third of fire code capacity for venues like movie theatres, museums and bowling alleys.

Two-metre physical distancing is also required.

And people must be with members of their household only, or two close contacts if they live alone.

What restrictions will apply to gyms and sports facilities that don't take part in the program?

Indoor group classes and activities will not be permitted, and indoor competitions will be paused except where vaccine exemptions have been granted.

Indoor one-on-one training and solo activities are allowed with three metres of physical distancing.

However, the government says that outdoor activities can continue with no restrictions.

What about events like weddings and funerals?

Indoor wedding ceremonies and funeral services are permitted with up to 50 people or 50 per cent of fire code occupancy, whichever is less.

Indoor wedding and funeral receptions are prohibited, unless the hosting facility implements the restrictions exemption program.

Outdoor ceremonies, services and receptions are permitted with up to 200 people, and must follow liquor sales and consumption curfews.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of Health, said Sept. 16 that venues hosting events like weddings or funerals can choose to implement the program, in which case there would be no cap on attendance.

What services in Alberta cannot take part in the program?

The government has decided some essential services fall outside the scope of the restrictions exemption program.

They include retail and shopping malls, libraries, schools, places of worship, publicly funded and First Nations universities and colleges, and personal services like hair salons.

This means they must comply with health restrictions that include capacity limits and physical distancing.

Who in Alberta is exempt from the program?

The program won't apply to employees of businesses participating in the program, those who have documentation of a medical exemption for vaccines, or children under 12.

With files from CBC Edmonton


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