Quebec businesses want vaccine passport system to be simple, not a burden

Quebec business owners are welcoming the government's vaccine-passport system but say it should be easy to use for entrepreneurs who are already struggling through the pandemic.

Government hasn't yet released details about how passport system would work

Quebecers have been receiving a QR code as proof of their COVID-19 vaccination. The quick response codes will be able to be scanned to show a person's vaccination record. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC)

Business owners say they are happy Quebec's vaccine-passport system will allow them to operate during potential COVID-19 outbreaks this fall but they worry the health order will become burdensome and another source of conflict with clients.

The province has taken the lead in Canada on this issue, stating that in September, it will need people to prove they are vaccinated to enter non-essential businesses — such as bars and gyms — in parts of the province where COVID-19 transmission is high.

Gabriel Hardy, a gym owner and the Quebec spokesman for the Fitness Industry Council of Canada, says he's worried the passport system will become another hassle as his members try to recover from the pandemic.

"We had to deal with all the measures: distancing, limiting capacity, bookings, mandatory masks, managing anti-maskers,'' Hardy said in an interview Friday.

"We had to go through a lot of steps and deal with unsatisfied clients, and this one is just another (step).''

Francis Bérubé, policy analyst for the Quebec chapter of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, says the proposed health order shows the government is serious about keeping the economy open if cases should rise.

"It's evident that if there's another lockdown, it's going to be catastrophic for certain businesses,'' Bérubé said in an interview Friday.

Quebec's government has provided vaccinated residents with a QR code as proof they received one or doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. People are also issued paper vaccination records.

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And while the government hasn't yet released details about how the passport system would work, Bérubé said he expects to be consulted before it's implemented so he can offer advice on how to reduce the burden on businesses.

The proof-of-vaccination system, Bérubé added, must be simple because businesses are already managing a slew of COVID-19 health orders.

"Our job will be to ensure that this measure, if applied, remains simple and favourable to business owners." he said.

Despite his concerns, Hardy said he recognizes the passport system will help gyms operate amid a potential fourth wave.

Gyms, he added, were among the first places to close and among the last to reopen during the lockdowns.

"We saw how people were affected by lack of exercise, how anxiety levels rose because we weren't able to evacuate the stress,'' Bérubé said.

Hardy, however, is questioning how he will handle unvaccinated people who paid for yearly memberships and who will not be permitted to enter his gym during periods of high COVID-19 transmission.

"Are we supposed to tell our clients, who already paid, that they can't use our services?" Hardy asked.