Some Quebecers will be able to download a new mobile app for the vaccine passport Wednesday morning as the province says it’s ready to limit some non-essential services to only vaccinated people.
The VaxiCode app will be ready to be downloaded in the Apple App Store at 8 a.m. by more than five million eligible Quebecers who have received their vaccination QR code. The app will roll out to Android users in the Google Play store later this week.
The app is still being tested at local businesses throughout Quebec, but Health Minister Christian Dubé made it clear: “We are now ready to start September 1.”
Quebec’s health minister said the vaccines are a “passport for freedom” and the passport is a tool designed to prevent locking businesses down as cases and hospitalizations rise in the middle of the fourth wave of the pandemic.
“We can no longer let unvaccinated people fill up our hospitals, so we must protect the health of the population,” said Dubé at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
“We must protect our health-care staff but we must also protect our economy.”
Quebec was the first province to announce a COVID-19 vaccine passport, which will be used for access to non-essential services, including indoor dining at restaurants, gyms, live events, theatres and other places. Dubé also said it will apply to “physical activities with frequent or prolonged contact,” such as team sports.
Other provinces, such as British Columbia, have also announced plans for a vaccine passport in recent weeks. In contrast with Quebec, people who can’t get vaccinated against COVID-19 for medical reasons won’t be exempt the “B.C. Vaccine Card” in that province.
HOW IT WORKS
As of Sept. 1, people 13 and older in Quebec will have to present their QR code in the new VaxiCode app to access the non-essential services. The app will include a QR code that will store the user’s vaccine information and it will show a green or red pass depending on the person’s vaccination status.
In addition to the vaccine passport, people will also be required to present photo ID so that the person scanning the app can prove their identity shown on the QR code. Only the person’s name will be visible on the app for privacy reasons.
People who do not wish to use the smartphone app can have their proof of vaccination mailed to them or they can print it out on their own. People can request their QR code by visiting the government’s self-serve portal or have it mailed to them by calling 1-877-644-4545.
The minimum requirements for the new mobile apps are an iPhone 6 with iOS 11 for Apple users. For Google users, people must have a device running Android 8.1 or newer.
A second app will also be made available under the vaccine passport system — VaxiCode Verif — which is meant to be used by businesses in order to scan and read a consumer’s digital or paper-based proof of vaccination.
The province said it will give a grace period before handing out financial penalties for restaurants and other businesses who fail to enforce the vaccine passport requirements. Beginning Sept. 15, businesses who don’t check people’s vaccination status can face fines up to $6,000.
The minister of health said the rules will be enforced the same way the masking policy was enforced earlier in the pandemic. In serious cases, restaurants, for example, could face closure if they fail to enforce the new policy.
“It’s the same thing as a mask wearing. Let’s keep it simple,” said Dubé
“Somebody who goes into a restaurant and doesn’t want to wear a mask, well, it’s unfortunate, but the business will have to say, ‘Well, listen, I’m sorry, sir or madam, you have to leave’ and if they don’t leave well… they call security.”