People in Quebec who aren’t fully vaccinated could be denied access to certain activities in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak, starting in September.
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé outlined a plan on Thursday to introduce COVID-19 passports on a limited basis, saying they would help avoid widespread lockdowns.
Dubé said the plan would not be implemented until every Quebecer has been given the chance to receive two doses of a vaccine. He stressed proof of vaccination would only be needed in regions that experience outbreaks.
Still, some fear an infringement on fundamental rights.
While the intention may be to encourage more people to get vaccinated before a fourth wave hits, Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist at the University of Toronto, said vaccine passports raise ethical concerns as they “absolutely come with an element of surveillance to them.”
However, Vardit Ravitsky, a bioethicist who teaches at Universite de Montreal and Harvard Medical School, said she thinks announcing the plan early was a good move and will encourage people to get vaccinated — something she said could prevent the passport’s use entirely.
She said it’s the right approach to require proof of vaccination for specific locations and to lift the health order when an outbreak is over.
“This is such a targeted … finely nuanced proposition that it really takes care of all the worries that we sometimes have about discrimination, because it’s not meant to punish those who are not vaccinated, it’s not meant to create barriers for anyone. It’s just meant to keep as much of society open and functional around eruptions of the virus,” she said.
“It’s meant to protect the health-care system while protecting our economy.”
She said it’s reasonable to prevent someone who chose not to get vaccinated from visiting a bar for a specific period of time. “The limitations that they will face will be so minor, that I think for the common good, it’s a very reasonable, proportional idea.”
In a news release Thursday, the province’s health department didn’t provide a concrete list of places where the vaccine passport would be required, but suggested it could be used at bars, gyms, restaurants, sporting events and festivals.
Cara Zwibel, director of the fundamental freedoms program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said more detail is needed about how the passport system will work.
She said she has concerns about how the private health data will be stored, who holds it, how secure it is and whether it can be shared with businesses.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 7 a.m. ET on Friday, Canada had reported 1,419,205 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 5,509 considered active. National deaths stood at 26,405. More than 41.2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered so far across the country, according to CBC’s vaccine tracker.
In British Columbia, health officials announced 59 new cases of COVID-19 and one new death on Thursday.
Alberta health officials on Thursday reported no new deaths from COVID-19 and 23 new cases, the lowest daily count in 13 months.
Manitoba reported 86 new COVID-19 cases Thursday and three more deaths.
Saskatchewan reported 113 new cases and no new deaths on Thursday. This was the highest daily case count for the province since June 3, when it reported 131 new cases.
The province said the rise in cases is “largely attributable” to the previously reported outbreak at the Hatchet Lake Denesuline First Nation, which is located about 850 kilometres north of Saskatoon, near Wollaston Lake.
In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia logged two more cases on Thursday.
New Brunswick reported no new cases or deaths from COVID-19 on Thursday. Health officials in the province said 45.4 per cent of the eligible population is now fully vaccinated.
There were no new cases of COVID-19 to report in Newfoundland and Labrador Thursday. More than 80 per cent of the eligible population has received at least one dose, with 26 per cent having received two.
Prince Edward Island reported no new cases on Thursday.
Across the North on Thursday, there were no new cases reported in Nunavut or the Northwest Territories, but Yukon recorded 10 new infections.
In Quebec, health officials on Thursday reported 64 new cases and no additional deaths.
What’s happening around the world
As of early Friday morning, more than 185.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, according to a tracker from Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than four million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Indonesia will impose emergency restrictions in some areas outside of Java and Bali islands to curb the spread of COVID-19, a senior minister said on Friday.
The emergency measures will be similar to those in place on Bali and Java and will impact 15 cities in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua, chief economic minister Airlangga Hartarto told a news conference.
In the Americas, U.S. cases of COVID-19 have jumped by 11 per cent compared with last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday.
The CDC said the increase is almost entirely among people who have not yet been vaccinated.
In Europe, France’s health minister on Friday said the more contagious delta variant of the coronavirus will probably account for a majority of new COVID-19 cases in the country, starting this weekend.
Olivier Veran said the variant now represents nearly 50 per cent of new infections. He has said that a fourth wave of COVID-19 could hit France as early as the end of July and is urging as many people as possible to get vaccinated.