Manitoba business owners prepare for launch of vaccine passport system
Province says more details coming on which activities, businesses will need proof of immunization
Getting into venues in Manitoba, from restaurants and bars to hockey rinks, may soon require proof of vaccination as the province gets ready to launch its own passport system for various non-essential activities.
While some business owners are happy to check people's cards, others say they feel uneasy about asking clients for personal information.
The provincial government said Monday that a vaccine passport system is coming to Manitoba, where businesses will either have to check vaccination cards, or shut down.
More details are expected later this week.
After lockdowns nearly sunk his business, Silver Heights Restaurant owner Tony Siwicki says he'll do whatever it takes to stay open.
"If you want to continue and survive, you have to do whatever is necessary. We've seen the close. We don't want to do that again."
Restaurants and bars have to ask for ID to serve people alcohol all of the time, so Siwicki says he doesn't see a vaccine passport being much different.
When the province was requiring vaccination cards in order to dine indoors with people from different households, Siwicki said he didn't get a lot of pushback.
"I got the odd person saying 'I don't need to show that, you have no business asking,' but for the most part, I would say 90 per cent of my clientele couldn't wait to show it."
Others are not so sure about the new rules.
Jae Park is vaccinated, went to this summer's Olympics in Tokyo as his daughter's coach and has been tested for COVID-19 multiple times.
But the owner of TRP Academy, a martial arts studio, says he really doesn't feel comfortable asking his clients for their cards.
"I don't understand how individuals are forced to police something within their own business for something like that, to actually ask people for, 'Hey where's your medical record?'" he said.
"I mean, where does this stop?"
Park says the government hasn't helped its own credibility by stopping and starting lockdowns, mask rules and allowing big box stores to stay open while small businesses were shuttered.
He was fined in the early days of the pandemic for operating an after-school program he thought was a daycare and could remain open, and says the fluctuating rules have been confusing to follow.
At this point, Park hasn't decided if he'll demand a vaccination passport from his clients.
"At the end of the day, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. It's not time to flout and ignore ... safety and health and things like that."
Other provinces are implementing their own vaccine passport systems, such as Quebec, which will require people to show an electronic record of vaccination in the form of a quick response (QR) code in order to get into restaurants, bars and gyms starting Sept. 1. It will also be needed to go to events like music festivals.
British Columbia is also using a similar system for access to a wide range of non-essential recreational and social activities.
Tim Sly, an epidemiologist and professor emeritus in the School of Public Health at Ryerson University, says he thinks vaccine passports are just common sense.
After months of lockdowns, he said they balance the need to protect people's health and help businesses survive another wave of the pandemic. He said they allow businesses like restaurants to remain open while giving their customers some assurance that their venue is safe because everyone there is vaccinated.
He added that it's reasonable to require people to be vaccinated in order to enjoy certain activities in the context of a lengthy global pandemic.
"I think the holdout political characters are going to have to wake up a bit and just to realize that this isn't just one side of the fence or the other side, there is a general move toward saying this is a good thing," he said.
"Let's bring it on, let's deal with it and let's get rid of this darned pandemic."
WATCH | Vaccination passports coming to Manitoba:
With files from Sean Kavanagh