The vaccinated may enter: Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine passport system begins today

EDMONTON –

The Alberta government has released more details about which businesses and institutions come under its new proof-of-vaccination program that allows some to operate without capacity limits and other public health measures.

Retail stores, libraries, hotels and post-secondary institutions don’t have to take part in the United Conservative Party’s so-called Restriction Exemption Program. Nor do worshippers at a church, employees on a worksite or students on a school trip.

Some restrictions will still apply. Stores must limit shoppers to one-third of normal capacity, for example.

Entertainment facilities from restaurants to nightclubs to art galleries are all eligible to participate in the program. They can operate normally as long as they require patrons to show proof of vaccination.

Eligible facilities that don’t participate must work under public health rules that include capacity limits and mask requirements for indoor public spaces.

The program was announced last week by Premier Jason Kenney. Retail stores and libraries were initially on the list of eligible organizations but were removed over the weekend.

Kenney had previously opposed a vaccine passport over what he said were privacy concerns.

He switched to support for passports as Alberta’s hospitals faced the prospect of being overwhelmed in the pandemic’s fourth wave.

Starting Sunday, Albertans were able to download cards with the dates they’d received their vaccinations.

Some Albertans pointed out the cards were easily altered.

A health ministry spokeswoman says work continues on a more secure QR code that will be available in the coming weeks.

Over the weekend, the leaders of Alberta’s largest health care unions said Kenney should ask the federal government for help from the military, the Red Cross and any other available medical resources able to assist the province’s overwhelmed hospitals.

The United Nurses of Alberta, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, the Health Sciences Association of Alberta and the Canadian Union of Public Employees all said Alberta’s health care system is collapsing right in front of their eyes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 20, 2021.

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