Quebec Backs Vaccine Passport to Keep Economy Open Despite Variants

Quebec, which had some of the toughest restrictions in North America during the pandemic, says it won’t close its economy again if there’s another outbreak.

Instead, Canada’s second-most populated province will only allow fully vaccinated people to access non-essential places like bars and gyms. The passport-based approach, which is still rare in Canada, will take effect on Sept. 1, leaving Quebeckers enough time to get a second jab, Health Minister Christian Dube said.

The approach “will enable us, in case things deteriorate, to have a much more targeted approach that deploys specific measures, but most of all to keep some economic sectors open” Dube said at a news conference Thursday. “The vaccine passport becomes one more instrument in our case management.”

Quebec was hit particularly hard by the pandemic, which caused 131 deaths per 100,000 people in the province, nearly double the overall Canadian average. The government has been relaxing constraints in recent weeks, including dropping a curfew that lasted almost five months, as vaccination rates climb and hospitalizations drop.

Canada, despite stringent entry rules, is seeing the more contagious delta variant become more prevalent and is racing to vaccinate the entire population before it triggers a fourth wave.

Dube said the spread of variants “is what worries us right now” as he called on people in the 18-30 age group to hurry to get their shots. About 40% of Quebec residents age 12 and over are fully vaccinated, versus 81% who have received one jab.

“We have millions of doses, we’ve never had such extraordinary availability,” Dube said. “Make an appointment, or even better, move up your appointment.”

In contrast to the U.S., Canada has, with few exceptions, avoided offering rewards or incentives for vaccination since most residents rushed to get their first dose. Nor has there been much debate on screening access to large events, the way some countries including France do, because few large gatherings have been allowed yet.

An exception is Alberta’s Calgary Stampede, a yearly rodeo festival that usually draws thousands of visitors to the western province and is back after being canceled last year. Organizers have said one of the venues, which hosts country music concerts, will require proof of vaccination or a rapid test to get in.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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