Coronavirus Canada updates: Some N.L. businesses charging a COVID-19 service fee as province reopens

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As COVID-19 restrictions begin to relax around Newfoundland and Labrador, people might start to notice a new fee tacked on to some of their bills: a COVID-19 surcharge.

The fee came as a surprise to Jackie Hartley when she booked an appointment at her physiotherapy clinic after suffering a back injury due to a car crash. She says the business was charging a $3 COVID-19 service fee.

“I didn’t understand it and said, ‘no, cancel my appointment,'” said Hartley, who normally visits twice a week.

“Not everyone can afford 24 extra dollars a month when they are on a fixed income.”

Hartley said she is also wondering why some businesses are charging extra but others aren’t.

“They just have to realize … everyone was off, everyone is trying to catch up … and to come up with this extra could be a little hard.”

Some say fee needed

Which is the same reason why the executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Dental Association believes some businesses, like dental offices, might have to charge extra.

“They have been closed for 12 weeks … and they too are struggling and trying to keep their office open and provide the service that is much needed by the public,” said Anthony Patey.

Patey said the association is not recommending charging a COVID-19 service fee, but is not discouraging either.

“Some dental offices are looking and saying with all this new PPE and filtration systems and things of that nature that they have needed to put in their offices to meet the standard necessary, there has been a significant cost,” he said.

Also adding the cost of PPE has gone up in recent weeks as the demand gets larger.

It was three months at home not knowing when we were going to open, if we could open, leasing companies calling you looking for rent when you were just living off of CERB. – Krista Tucker, X-Static Hair Salon

Proactive Wellness and Prevention has decided to charge their rehabilitation patients $3 an appointment to try and offset some of those increased costs. Costs like PPE and infrastructure projects like installing plexiglass.

The company also hired a safety advisor who will oversee the cleanliness of the office as well as keeping up to date with safety guidelines.

“If we are going to still run our clinics the way we need to run our clinics, and provide the service and level of quality of care that Proactive is known for, this is a necessary cost,” said Robbie Lee, marketing and public relations coordinator for the company.

Lee said clients are well informed about the new fee in advance of paying and the majority of people have been understanding. He is also hoping that it won’t have to last that much longer.

“It’s week to week at this point … we are still reviewing it,” he said. “When it hits level two maybe something will be rolled back and we won’t have to use as much [PPE].”

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