Quebecers across the province pulled out their proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to access restaurants, fitness centres and other services Wednesday as the government’s new passport system came into effect.
The first morning of the new measure aimed at clamping down on the pandemic went smoothly at Monster Gym in Dorval. The business had already set up an online system for clients to register their QR codes so they don’t have to show them every time.
The latest rule was welcomed by 78-year-old Richard Carlisle, who was one of the early birds getting his workout done.
“It feels fine,” he said. “I’d rather make sure everyone is fully vaccinated, especially in this environment, where we have to take our masks off to breathe.”
Ginette Delhaes, a personal trainer at the gym, said she “couldn’t be happier” about the vaccine passport since she gets to continue doing what she loves.
“I get to work. I get to see my clients,” she said. “I’m happy about it.”
With the vaccine passports, only fully vaccinated Quebecers 13 and older can access certain services and activities deemed non-essential by the government. A QR code along with identification is mandatory to dine at restaurants, work out at the gym and go to the cinema, among other things.
There is, however, a two-week grace period for the new system. Starting Sept. 15, any person or business caught violating the health order can face thousands of dollars in fines.
But people who must enforce passports are concerned it could be bad for their bottom line and keep potential clients away. The manager at Monster Gym said he worries Quebec’s latest rule has already had an effect on business.
“Not only will clients not come once that barrier is up, but you see it right away with renewals and memberships,” Vincent Sheffield said. “Because there are people who probably would’ve joined except they will no longer have access to the gym in a month if they don’t meet the requirements.”
The province, meanwhile, has argued the system is necessary to prevent sweeping closures and limit pandemic-related hospitalizations if COVID-19 cases rise again. Premier François Legault echoed the sentiment on social media Wednesday, urging people to get vaccinated.
“Today, we are choosing to protect our health-care system and keep our economy open,” he wrote.
Mathieu Larocque, a customer at Bistro De Paris in Montreal, said he was wary of having to show proof of vaccination initially, but he has accepted it.
“I realized, I do like to go out so I might as well do it,” he said.
Larocque said he’s often asked to show ID when buying cigarettes at convenience stores, adding that his photo identification contains more personal information than the QR code. Showing the vaccine proof is easy for people who are familiar with smartphones, he said, but it could be difficult for people who aren’t as comfortable with technology.
—with files from The Canadian Press
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