Quebec to gradually end use of vaccine passport as of March 14
Compliance & Enforcement Health & Safety Human Resources COVID-19 Quebec Vaccine Passports
By Sidhartha Banerjee
MONTREAL — Quebec will phase out the use of its vaccine passport, and it will no longer be required anywhere in the province by March 14, Health Minister Christian Dube said Tuesday.
Starting Wednesday, Quebecers will no longer need to show proof of vaccination to enter big-box stores or government-run liquor and cannabis outlets — less than a month after the passport was imposed in those locations. As of Feb. 21, the passport will not be required at places of worship or funeral homes, Dube told reporters in Quebec City.
For everywhere else, including elder care settings, restaurants, bars, gyms and entertainment venues, the passport will be withdrawn as of March 14, when most COVID-19 restrictions across the province are scheduled to expire.
“The vaccine passport has been and remains an important tool to fight the pandemic,” Dube said. “We are withdrawing it gradually as we learn to live with the virus.”
Mask-wearing, however, will continue to be enforced across the province, Dr. Luc Boileau, Quebec’s interim public health director, told reporters.
“The epidemiological situation does not allow us to remove the mask at this stage,” Boileau said.
Dube said the removal of the passport coincides with the arrival of large quantities of Pfizer’s Paxlovid COVID-19 antiviral pill, which he said will help protect the unvaccinated and the most vulnerable from the disease.
But the health minister warned Quebecers that the government would reimpose the passport system if it’s needed during a new wave of COVID-19, adding that residents should not delete the cellphone application that stores the QR code used to check proof of vaccination.
Quebec in September became the first province to impose a vaccine passport. And the health order served its purpose, Boileau said, noting that nearly 600,000 Quebecers have been vaccinated since it went into effect and that it gave people a sense of security when the Delta variant of the novel coronavirus was dominant in the province.
But the Omicron mutation changed things, Boileau said.
Quebecers were only required to have two doses of COVID-19 vaccine to obtain a passport. And two doses don’t generate the same protection against Omicron as they did against Delta, he explained. “The situation is different with Omicron and in this perspective, it’s important that people remain prudent and get their third dose.”
The government couldn’t expand the passport to three doses because nearly two million Quebecers caught the virus since the beginning of the fifth wave in December, representing nearly 25 per cent of the population. Boileau said those people should wait eight to twelve weeks from their infection before they get a third dose.
By the time those two million Quebecers get third doses, the current Omicron wave is expected to be finished, he added.
The interim health director said the Omicron subvariant of the novel coronavirus, dubbed BA.2 by scientists, has been detected in the Montreal area and is composing about 10 to 15 per cent of new cases. While the new mutation is about 30 per cent more transmissible than the Omicron variant, it is not more severe.
On Tuesday, Quebec reported 56 more deaths due to COVID-19 and 43 fewer people in hospital. The province had 2,052 patients hospitalized with the disease and 132 patients listed in intensive care, a drop of four.
Quebec also reported 1,973 new COVID-19 cases through PCR testing, which is limited to certain higher-risk groups, and another 563 positive results from take-home rapid tests uploaded to a government website.