COVID-19 vaccine cards no longer required starting Tuesday at most places in Manitoba
Businesses, organizations can still choose to ask for them
Starting Tuesday, you won't need a COVID-19 vaccine card to get into many businesses and venues in Manitoba as the provincial government ends proof of vaccination requirements brought in to deal with the pandemic.
However, businesses can still choose to keep vaccine and mask requirements, and some say they're planning to do so.
Premier Heather Stefanson announced the change last month at a news conference where she and Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, stated plans to drop all pandemic-related restrictions by March 15, including mask mandates.
The Manitoba immunization card and verifier app will still be available to businesses, venues and other organizations that want to continue to ask for vaccine cards after March 1, the province said in a news release last month.
Some businesses have already said they plan to keep requiring proof of vaccination after March 1.
That includes True North Sports and Entertainment, which announced last week that people attending hockey games or concerts at the Canada Life Centre in downtown Winnipeg will still have to show their proof of immunization to attend.
A recent membership survey conducted by the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce found that close to one third of the 440 businesses who responded said they plan to continue to require proof of immunization from COVID-19 from either staff, customers or both. Another 23 per cent were unsure what they planned to do come March 1, the survey says.
Meanwhile, 42 per cent said they plan to drop the requirement entirely.
When it comes to masks, about 20 per cent of businesses surveyed said they plan to keep mask requirements for everyone, while 27 per cent said they were unsure.
The results suggest some businesses don't feel ready to drop the restrictions entirely, said Chuck Davidson, president and CEO of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce.
"Going from all of those restrictions that they've been dealing with for the past two years to going to none, it's going to be a cautious approach a lot of businesses are going to take," he said.
At Les Saj restaurant in Winnipeg, co-owners Mohamad Barafi and Adham Tayfour say they're looking forward to dropping the vaccine passport requirement to dine in at their fast-casual restaurant.
It was an extra step that was a hassle sometimes, and also caused them to lose some customers who weren't fully vaccinated.
"By tomorrow, I think it would be a big relief for lots of, lots of customers and also for business," Tayfour said.
Yet the restaurant isn't doing away with all safety precautions. They're still keeping their dining room's capacity capped at 50 per cent to give people more room to space out, Tayfour said.
David Knipe, head programmer of the Cinematheque theatre in Winnipeg's Exchange District, says the theatre is planning on keeping vaccine and mask requirements for the near future as staff felt it was in the best interest of the theatre's customers and employees.
"We definitely didn't want to rush into anything, and things have been going well for us with the restrictions and requirements, so we just wanted to see how things played out and make sure that we were doing whatever we could to make sure that that our staff and patrons continued to be as safe as possible," he said.
Knipe said the requirements haven't been much of a hindrance on the theatre's operations, so it didn't feel like there was a need to get rid of them immediately.
Meanwhile at the Good Will Social Club, customers may still need to flash their vaccination card if they're coming to see a performer who requires it, says Anthony Kowalczyk, one of the venue's co-owners.
"As a building, as of March 1st, we won't require it to be in here, but a lot of our production partners will still require it for shows. So depending on the show, there will be proof of vaccination required," he said.
Kowalczyk says he thinks most of the venue's clientele were fully vaccinated anyway, so lifting the rule likely won't make much of a difference on attendance.
"I don't really think it'll make a massive impact in our overall attendance, but I think we will start to see more and more people come out, just nature of things opening back up," he said.
No matter what a business decides, one epidemiologist say Manitobans should still be careful.
"It's sort of back to normal, but we're not back to normal," said Cynthia Carr, founder of Winnipeg-based EPI Research Inc., stressing that COVID-19 is still circulating in Manitoba.
"My fear and my caution is that it's going to be quite easy to forget that we actually need to be cautious when all of the signals that are visible to us appear to be saying, there's not an issue because all of these things are being allowed kind of all at once."
Businesses choosing to stick with the vaccine requirement are anticipating some level of pushback, but that hasn't been the experience yet of Paradise Art School, which specializes in children's art programs and small group instruction, said owner Laura Kerr.
"I was waiting for an email to arrive, I was bracing myself for that — and it didn't come."
With files from Meaghan Ketcheson, Ian Froese