COVID-19 Developments and Legal Updates
Implementation of vaccine passports in Newfoundland and Labrador
On September 28, 2021, the St. John’s Board of Trade hosted the Department of Health and Community Services, Digital Government and Service NL, and the NL Centre for Health Information, to provide an in-depth review of the plan to implement vaccine passports in Newfoundland and Labrador. The plan is still under review and subject to change, but the following is a summary of the information provided on the vaccine passport program.
What is a vaccine passport?
A vaccine passport is a certified record that provides proof of vaccination for certain purposes. The vaccine passport will be available in three forms:
- An electronic QR code;
- A physical QR code; and
- A physical or electronic copy of official vaccination record.
Conditions for entry
Where vaccine passports are required, conditions for entry will require individuals ages 12 and older to be fully vaccinated for at least 14 days. Individuals who are partially vaccinated will not meet conditions for entry. To be fully vaccinated, the individual requires two doses of their vaccine.
It is unclear at this point whether employees of businesses required to verify vaccine passports will be authorized to enter the business without meeting the condition for entry.
Individuals with a medical exemption will not be required to be fully vaccinated. These individuals will meet conditions for entry on the basis of their medical exemption.
Youth less than 18 years old will not be required to be fully vaccinated to enter sporting and recreational facilities. Those under 18 years old will meet conditions for entry for sporting and recreational facilities.
How will vaccine passports work?
The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador will publish two applications. The applications will be available for download on October 8, 2021. The applications will only be available to residents of Newfoundland and Labrador.
The first application will be the passport application used by individuals (“Passport App”). The individual will upload their vaccination record to the Passport App, which will store the vaccination records and produce a QR code. The QR code is the only document that the individual is required to show the business that they are seeking to enter. If an individual has a medical exemption, they will receive a QR code as if they are fully vaccinated. The business verifying the QR code will not be advised whether the individual is fully vaccinated or has a medical exemption.
The second application is used by businesses to scan the individual’s vaccine record and verify that all conditions have been met for entry (“Verification App”). The Verification App will utilize a camera to scan the QR code on the Passport App.
If a resident of Newfoundland and Labrador does not have technology to use the Passport App or the individual is not a resident of the province, the business can rely on the paper vaccination record issued by a province in lieu of the QR code. The business will be required to determine the date of the last vaccination and confirm that the individual has been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days.
In addition to verifying the vaccination records, businesses will be required to verify an individual’s identification to confirm that the individual is the holder of the vaccination record. Photo identification is required for individuals 19+, while individuals ages 12 to 18 will only require official identification stating their date of birth. The business must ensure that the name on the identification is the same as the name on the vaccination record.
A person will be required to perform the verification of the vaccine passport and identification, whether verifying through the Verification App or verifying the vaccination record. Businesses will not be able to rely on an automated kiosk for verification. If an individual cannot demonstrate the above, they cannot enter the business.
The Passport App
Individuals can access their QR code online via their My Gov NL account or www.gov.nl.ca/covid19. Alternatively, individuals can phone a phoneline that will be established to have a physical QR code sent in the mail.
Any device with camera technology that recognizes QR codes can be utilized for the Verification App. Further, the Verification App does not require internet, as it can be used offline. However, the device will be required to connect to internet at least once every two weeks for updates.
Repeat customers and members
In the event that a business has repeat customers and/or members, the business can seek the repeat customer’s consent to keep a record that conditions for entry are met for that individual once their vaccine passport has been verified. The business should not store the QR code, and should only keep a record that conditions for entry are met.
Where will vaccine passports be required?
At the present time, vaccine passports will be required for the following (“Required List”):
- Formal indoor and outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people;
- Arenas, indoor gyms and fitness facilities, yoga studios, and dance studios;
- Places where sports or recreational activities are practiced indoors;
- Places where group music, art, dance, and drama activities are practiced indoors;
- Indoor entertainment facilities;
- Bar and lounges;
- Restaurants for indoor seated dining only (this does not include outdoor patios, takeout, or drive-thrus);
- Cinemas and performance spaces; and
- Bingo halls.
At the present time, vaccine passports will not be required for the following (“Not Required List”):
- Schools, child care, after school programs;
- Places of worship;
- Post-secondary institutions;
- Retail stores, shopping malls, and public markets;
- Healthcare facilities;
- Places where health and social services are offered;
- Personal service establishments;
- Taxis and public transit;
- Hotel and bed and breakfast accommodations;
- Places where government services are offered; and
- Financial institutions.
There are many businesses that do not neatly fall under one list, and it is unclear whether vaccine passports will be required for these businesses. These include:
- Funeral homes;
- Facilities and ballrooms within hotels;
- Real estate services;
- Outdoor sporting events with more than 100 spectators.
Businesses can choose to require vaccine passports if they do not fall under the Not Required List.
Offices with more than 100 employees will not be required to verify vaccine passports unless they fall under the Required List.
If an individual is renting a venue for an event with more than 100 people, it is unclear whether the onus is on the venue or the host to verify vaccine passports.
Penalties for breaching the Public Health Protection and Promotion Act include:
- For an individual, a fine between $500 and $2,500 and/or up to six months of jail time; and
- For a corporation, a fine between $5,000 and $50,000.
Environmental Health Officers will be monitoring compliance and following up on complaints with an education-first approach. They will work with businesses to ensure the program is being implemented properly.
Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers have authority to issue tickets. However, there will be a two-week grace period following the launch of the program to account for unforeseen issues and education.
The program is scheduled to go live on October 8, 2021 with a two-week grace period. This information is based on the current draft of the program and is subject to changes and revisions.
This client update is provided for general information only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions about the above, please contact a member of our Labour and Employment group.
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