N.L. to make vaccine passports mandatory for recreation, reporting 4 new cases of COVID-19
Active caseload drops to 38
Newfoundland and Labrador reported four new cases of COVID-19 in an unscheduled briefing Friday, hours after Premier Andrew Furey said vaccine passports will be mandatory for recreational activities in the province.
Two of Friday's announced cases are in the Labrador-Grenfell Health region, both contacts of a previously known case. Both were previously presumed positive.
The remaining two are both in the Eastern Health region. One is travel-related and the other is under investigation.
The province also posted 15 more recoveries on Friday, and there is no one in hospital due to COVID-19. Seven of the recoveries were in the Eastern Health region, two were in the Western Health region and six were in the Labrador-Grenfell Health region.
The province's active caseload dropped to 38.
The delta variant has become the dominant strain across Canada and in Newfoundland and Labrador, according to Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, chief medical officer of health. The variant is more easily transmissible and leads to more severe illness.
Because of those traits and rising cases across Canada, Fitzgerald reintroduced the mask mandate, which comes into effect at midnight.
Masks must be worn once again provincewide in most public spaces, public transit, post-secondary institutions and for K-12 schools on school buses and common areas.
Fitzgerald said gathering sizes will not be changing but indoor gatherings will require masks.
The province is making COVID-19 vaccine passports mandatory for non-essential recreational activities, according to Premier Andrew Furey, who made the announcement shortly after 11 a.m. NT on Friday on Twitter.
"Newfoundland and Labrador, you have stepped up in this pandemic. Getting vaccinated, respecting public health guidance," Furey wrote.
"With our current COVID-19 situation, we will make vaccine passports mandatory for non-essential, recreational activities."
Watch the full Sept. 17 update:
Officials have said they expect the province to introduce the passport by early October in the form of a mobile app. It will use a QR code to show vaccination status, meaning the passport can be printed and won't require an internet connection.
It's a step other provinces are using to ensure people entering high-risk areas are vaccinated. The passports are also serving as a entry requirement at some sporting events and concerts.
Few other details have been released.
Newfoundland and Labrador, you have stepped up in this pandemic. Getting vaccinated, respecting public health guidance. With our current COVID-19 situation, we will make vaccine passports mandatory for non-essential, recreational activities. More details soon. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GetVaccinatedNow?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GetVaccinatedNow</a> <a href="https://t.co/FQMJ05O2gO">pic.twitter.com/FQMJ05O2gO</a>—@PremierofNL
Friday's announcement contradicts an earlier statement by Health Minister John Haggie, who on Wednesday told reporters the passport would be for voluntary use by businesses. Haggie also said then that businesses could adopt the passport system to remain open to vaccinated visitors in the event of another lockdown.
"There may be conditions where using the vaccine passport could be mandatory under a [special measures order]. But it might allow some businesses who would otherwise have closed under previous lockdowns to stay open," he said.
On Friday, Furey confirmed to reporters that the conditions for a mandate had been met.
"Currently we are seeing a concerning level of epidemiology, so it would be mandatory for non-essential services, period," Furey said.
Full vaccination rates for N.L.'s eligible population are lingering around the 78 per cent mark. Just over 87 per cent has at least one dose.
Fitzgerald expressed confidence that government will protect people's privacy, and said the actual information on what vaccines a person has isn't being released.
"This question, of course, has been dealt with by people outside of me and I'm sure that everything has been done to protect people's privacy to the greatest extent possible," she said.
A helping hand
Meanwhile, Furey said N.L. will be looking to help Alberta in the same way it did Ontario, when that province's health-care system was slammed with COVID-19 patients.
Newfoundland and Labrador initially sent a nine-person medical team to Toronto in April to aid critical-care units and support exhausted medical care staff there.
Furey said he spoke with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney on Thursday night, and N.L. is currently "doing an inventory" on what it can provide in terms of human resources.
"We're certainly working towards a model that would be akin to what we did for Toronto," Furey said.
"This is a virus that impacts all of us, and if we can play a small part in helping the health-care system in Alberta then we'll all benefit from that, and I think it's something that we should do if we're able to."