With the threat of a fourth wave looming, Quebec Premier François Legault announced Thursday that vaccine passports will soon be required to access non-essential services such as gyms and restaurants.
“People who have made the effort to get their two doses must be able to live a somewhat normal life,” Premier Legault said during a media briefing.
He said the system will allow the province to avoid the widespread closures that have marked its pandemic response to date.
For several months, the province has been issuing QR codes, or quick response codes, to vaccinated people. These codes, which can be printed or stored on a mobile device, are scanned to pull up information about a person’s vaccination status. So far, the province has not provided anyone with the information to interpret the codes.
Premier Legault said details will be released soon, and that rising case numbers and the prospect of more hospitalizations and deaths have made a vaccine passport system necessary.
Since the start of the vaccination campaign, 83 percent of Quebecers have received at least a first dose, while 67 percent of the population is adequately vaccinated, according to the province’s public health institute, INSPQ.
Premier Legault says although the province is on track to achieving its goal of fully vaccinating 75 percent of the eligible population by September, the highly contagious delta variant could lead to a spike in hospitalizations, noting that it’s important to get fully vaccinated and that the province was reviewing its targets with public health.
“Nobody wants to relive what we have lived over the last year. That is to say, postponing surgeries because our hospitals are overcrowded.”
The news comes as the Quebec Health Department announces an end to Pfizer vaccine shipments.
Quebec will receive its final scheduled shipment of COVID-19 vaccine next week, and the province says its remaining stock is enough to cover everyone who hasn’t yet received two doses, the Health Department said Wednesday.
The province said in a news release 585,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine received this week will be the last shipment that will be distributed to regional health authorities. A final scheduled vaccine shipment of 513,630 doses set to arrive the week of August 9 will be held in reserve.
The Health Department said the reserve will be used to offer first and second doses to people who have not yet received them, to offer additional doses to people who received a mix of vaccines and could be used to give the third dose, if needed, for people who are older or with suppressed immune systems.
Quebec is also winding down a vaccination program that was organized in conjunction with large businesses. Several of those vaccination sites, including one at Montreal-Trudeau International Airport, have already closed, while the rest will close within the coming weeks, the Health Department said.
The government currently has more than 2 million unused doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, which officials said is enough to cover all those who aren’t fully vaccinated. The province’s public health institute says 84.2 percent of Quebec residents 12 and over have received at least one dose of vaccine and 69.1 percent are adequately vaccinated. Health officials said 47,478 doses of vaccine were administered Tuesday.
Quebec reported 184 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, as the number of new daily infections continues to trend up. Officials have reported an average of 160 new daily cases over the past seven days, compared to an average of 74 the previous week.
Premier Legault said in a post on Twitter he’s concerned about the rise in new cases and his government will impose “new measures” in the coming days. He did not specify what those would be.
But hospitalizations and deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus have not risen along with the number of new cases. The most recent death linked to the virus reported by provincial health officials occurred July 22.
Officials say 58 people are in hospital with the disease, a number unchanged from the day before, and 17 people were in intensive care, a drop of one.
The regional health authority has sent a vaccination bus to downtown Trois-Rivieres, and a temporary testing clinic will be open in the city Thursday and Friday, Guillaume Cliche, a spokesman for the regional health authority in Mauricie and Centre-du-Quebec.
Public health staff will be walking around in the city’s downtown — where cases have been spreading in local businesses and at private gatherings — to answer questions about the vaccines and encourage people to make appointments. Teams from public health and Quebec’s workplace health and safety board will also be visiting businesses in the area to ensure they’re following health orders.
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