In Manitoba, a hint at the challenges vaccine certificates could bring: ‘We’re just going by the seat of our pants’

It’s an awkward situation that Tony Siwicki did not sign up for.The owner of Silver Heights Restaurant and Lounge in Winnipeg has found himself having to play cop in recent weeks to more than a few customer-scofflaws trying to skirt rules requiring them to show proof they are fully vaccinated.Per provincial rules, people from different households can only dine together if they produce a government-issued card or QR code on their phone that, when scanned, confirms their name and that they have received two jabs.But there have been several occasions, Siwicki said, when the host asked for secondary ID, only to discover that the names didn’t match. That’s because the wannabe diner had displayed a screenshot of a QR code belonging to someone else.“They turn beet red. They got caught,” Siwicki said.On top of that, staff have also faced the conundrum of what to do when customers come in from other provinces that do not use a similar verification system. They’ve had to make judgments on the fly whether paper documents produced are legitimate or not.“We’re just going by the seat of our pants.”Across the country, there is growing discussion about whether and how provinces should adopt a more secure way to verify someone’s COVID-19 vaccine status to regulate entry not only to restaurants but all places where large gatherings occur, such as gyms, theatres and sporting events. Proof-of-vaccination certificates are basically seen as a domestic version of “vaccine passports,” which some countries have rolled out for the purpose of travel across international borders.The rollout of such certificates in Canada has been haphazard, with some provincial officials raising concerns about the privacy and equity implications of demanding someone’s vaccine status at the door. Business owners, meanwhile, are scratching their heads over what to do about interprovincial travellers and those looking to cheat the system.“To say that it’s an additional stress load is an understatement,” Shaun Jeffrey, executive director of the Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association, told Global News this week.Italy recently announced it will soon require that people have a “green pass” to access gyms, museums, theatres and other venues. The certification is needed “to keep economic activity open” and will allow people to enjoy entertainment “with the assurance they won’t be next to contagious people,” Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said.Israel adopted a similar type of pass this year.Here in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the federal government will work with provinces to ensure there is an “internationally accepted proof of vaccination” to allow Canadians to travel abroad. But when it comes to domestic vaccine certificates? That’s up to the provinces to decide on their own.Manitoba was first out of the gates with its immunization card. Quebec has signalled it could also adopt a vaccine certificate come September, requiring people show proof they are vaccinated to access non-essential services in areas where COVID-19 transmission is high.Some provinces appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach, while other provinces have stated emphatically they are against the idea, citing privacy and civil liberties reasons.“We’ve been very clear from the beginning that we will not facilitate or accept vaccine passports,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney told reporters at the Calgary Stampede earlier this month.“That will not be a provincial requirement in Saskatchewan,” Premier Scott Moe told reporters in late June.This month, asked if Ontario would require vaccine certificates, Premier Doug Ford told reporters: “No, we aren’t doing it, simple as that.“We aren’t going to have a split society,” he said, referring to those who are vaccinated and those who aren’t.But that position was contradicted by the province’s COVID-19 advisory group this week, which wrote in a brief that in the near term, vaccine certificates “could enable the reopening of high-risk settings sooner and/or at increased capacity” and incentivize vaccinations.In the long term, vaccine certificates can “serve as verifiable, secure, standardized, accessible and portable records of immunization.”Lorian Hardcastle, a University of Calgary law professor specializing in health law and policy, said reluctant provinces may have no choice but to produce some form of vaccine certification to meet requirements for travelling abroad.“If the EU decides they’re going to require this, there’s no way those premiers can push back and say we’re not going to give you the proof you need to travel. The opposition to that would be too strong.”In some ways, Manitoba may have jumped the gun, she said. What if word comes in that other countries want particular security features that Manitoba’s card doesn’t have? Or what if some countries decide they won’t even accept subnational or provincial pieces of verification, only those issued by the federal government?Conceptually, having formal vaccine ce

In Manitoba, a hint at the challenges vaccine certificates could bring: ‘We’re just going by the seat of our pants’

It’s an awkward situation that Tony Siwicki did not sign up for.

The owner of Silver Heights Restaurant and Lounge in Winnipeg has found himself having to play cop in recent weeks to more than a few customer-scofflaws trying to skirt rules requiring them to show proof they are fully vaccinated.

Per provincial rules, people from different households can only dine together if they produce a government-issued card or QR code on their phone that, when scanned, confirms their name and that they have received two jabs.

But there have been several occasions, Siwicki said, when the host asked for secondary ID, only to discover that the names didn’t match. That’s because the wannabe diner had displayed a screenshot of a QR code belonging to someone else.

“They turn beet red. They got caught,” Siwicki said.

On top of that, staff have also faced the conundrum of what to do when customers come in from other provinces that do not use a similar verification system. They’ve had to make judgments on the fly whether paper documents produced are legitimate or not.

“We’re just going by the seat of our pants.”

Across the country, there is growing discussion about whether and how provinces should adopt a more secure way to verify someone’s COVID-19 vaccine status to regulate entry not only to restaurants but all places where large gatherings occur, such as gyms, theatres and sporting events. Proof-of-vaccination certificates are basically seen as a domestic version of “vaccine passports,” which some countries have rolled out for the purpose of travel across international borders.

The rollout of such certificates in Canada has been haphazard, with some provincial officials raising concerns about the privacy and equity implications of demanding someone’s vaccine status at the door. Business owners, meanwhile, are scratching their heads over what to do about interprovincial travellers and those looking to cheat the system.

“To say that it’s an additional stress load is an understatement,” Shaun Jeffrey, executive director of the Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association, told Global News this week.

Italy recently announced it will soon require that people have a “green pass” to access gyms, museums, theatres and other venues.

The certification is needed “to keep economic activity open” and will allow people to enjoy entertainment “with the assurance they won’t be next to contagious people,” Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said.

Israel adopted a similar type of pass this year.

Here in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the federal government will work with provinces to ensure there is an “internationally accepted proof of vaccination” to allow Canadians to travel abroad. But when it comes to domestic vaccine certificates? That’s up to the provinces to decide on their own.

Manitoba was first out of the gates with its immunization card. Quebec has signalled it could also adopt a vaccine certificate come September, requiring people show proof they are vaccinated to access non-essential services in areas where COVID-19 transmission is high.

Some provinces appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach, while other provinces have stated emphatically they are against the idea, citing privacy and civil liberties reasons.

“We’ve been very clear from the beginning that we will not facilitate or accept vaccine passports,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney told reporters at the Calgary Stampede earlier this month.

“That will not be a provincial requirement in Saskatchewan,” Premier Scott Moe told reporters in late June.

This month, asked if Ontario would require vaccine certificates, Premier Doug Ford told reporters: “No, we aren’t doing it, simple as that.

“We aren’t going to have a split society,” he said, referring to those who are vaccinated and those who aren’t.

But that position was contradicted by the province’s COVID-19 advisory group this week, which wrote in a brief that in the near term, vaccine certificates “could enable the reopening of high-risk settings sooner and/or at increased capacity” and incentivize vaccinations.

In the long term, vaccine certificates can “serve as verifiable, secure, standardized, accessible and portable records of immunization.”

Lorian Hardcastle, a University of Calgary law professor specializing in health law and policy, said reluctant provinces may have no choice but to produce some form of vaccine certification to meet requirements for travelling abroad.

“If the EU decides they’re going to require this, there’s no way those premiers can push back and say we’re not going to give you the proof you need to travel. The opposition to that would be too strong.”

In some ways, Manitoba may have jumped the gun, she said. What if word comes in that other countries want particular security features that Manitoba’s card doesn’t have? Or what if some countries decide they won’t even accept subnational or provincial pieces of verification, only those issued by the federal government?

Conceptually, having formal vaccine certificates does help to prevent forgeries, Hardcastle said.

That said, there are also legitimate concerns around equity, she said. Businesses will need to have measures in place to accommodate individuals who have valid reasons for not getting vaccinated.

The Canadian Council of Parliamentary Ombudsman has raised similar concerns, saying in May that if the public sector decides to require proof of vaccination to access services, it must be done with “fairness principles” in mind.

Alternative service delivery options must be made available to people who haven’t been vaccinated, the council said. Restricting access to someone must be done in a transparent way and decisions must be subject to appeal.

Canada’s privacy commissioners have previously issued a statement urging that any “tracking or logging of an individual’s activities through a vaccine passport … should not be permitted,” and that “personal health information collected through vaccine passports should be destroyed and vaccine passports decommissioned when the pandemic is declared over.”

An Angus Reid survey in May of 1,600 Canadian adults found that while 79 per cent of respondents said they had no problem with mandatory proof of vaccination for international travel, only 55 per felt that way when it came to community settings, such as restaurants and movie theatres.

Olivia Billson, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister’s press secretary, said Friday the province’s immunization card is “designed to be an interim, added benefit for those who have been fully vaccinated.”

Asked about the complaint by some businesses that they weren’t getting clear guidance on how to deal with out-of-town visitors, Billson said correspondence was sent to industry groups this week clarifying that proof of vaccination could include “an official document issued by a Canadian province or territory containing information of a person’s COVID-19 vaccination history.”

Businesses are “strongly encouraged to confirm the individual’s identity against government-issued identification,” the letter added.

Siwicki, the restaurant owner, says the screening of customers is “tedious” but understands it has to be done. He just wishes provinces would talk to each other to create a more universal piece of verification to streamline the vetting process.

As for what happens to those customers trying to cheat the system, Siwicki said they’re not necessarily turned away. They have the option of sitting outside. One man who was caught using someone else’s QR code ended up eating on his own — away from his wife and friends.

“The guy actually went and sat by himself in the corner and ate his lunch.”

With files from Robert Benzie, The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

Douglas Quan is a Vancouver-based reporter for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @dougquan

Source : Toronto Star More   

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Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reports 170 cases of COVID-19, 3 deaths and more than 19,100 tests completed; Thousands in Sydney, other Australian cities protest lockdown restrictions

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Saturday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.10:27 a.m.: Ontario is reporting 170 cases of COVID-19 and more than 19,100 tests completed. Locally, there are 44 new cases in Toronto, 26 in Peel Region, 17 in Hamilton, 15 in the Region of Waterloo and 13 in Grey Bruce.As of 8 p.m. Friday, 18,848,661 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, including 124,261 doses administered.9:56 a.m.: Tanzania on Saturday received its first batch of 1 million Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines donated by the U.S. government.Tanzania had been among the few countries in Africa yet to receive vaccines or start inoculating its population against the COVID-19 pandemic, mainly because its former leader had denied claimed prayer had defeated COVID-19 in the country.The vaccines were received by Foreign Affairs Minister Liberata Mulamula and the U.S. ambassador to Tanzania, Donald Wright, at the Julius Nyerere International Airport in the country's commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.Former Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who died in March, had refused to accept vaccines after he claimed three days of prayer had healed the country of the coronavirus in June 2020.Magufuli, 61, was among the world's most prominent skeptics of COVID-19. Though his official cause of death was reported to be cardiac arrest, Magufuli's critics believe he died of COVID-19.9:55 a.m.: Far-right activists and members of France’s yellow vest movement are holding protests Saturday against a bill requiring everyone to have a special virus pass to enter restaurants and other venues and mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for all health care workers.Legislators in France’s Senate are debating the bill Saturday after the lower house of parliament approved it Friday.French virus infections are spiking and hospitalizations are rising anew. The government is trying to speed up vaccination to protect vulnerable populations and hospitals and avoid new lockdowns.Most French adults are fully vaccinated and polls indicate a majority of French people support the new measures.But not everyone. Protesters chanting “Liberty! Liberty!” marched through Paris in one of multiple demonstrations planned Saturday.Last weekend, more than 100,000 people protested around France against the measures. They included far-right politicians and activists as well as some others angry at President Emmanuel Macron for various reasons.8:05 a.m.: It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on restaurants — both their owners and their workers, many of whom have been in and out of work for a year and a half.For some in the industry, it has also been a wake-up call.Adam Colquhoun, owner of Oyster Boy in Toronto, said the pandemic only sped up his plans to change how he compensates his workers.Though his pre-pandemic wages were already above average, Colquhoun said he boosted pay for all positions at his restaurant, and has even given some workers a share in the company.With restaurants now welcoming back indoor diners, it’s been hard to get front-of-house staff, said Colquhoun, so he offered a $1,000 retention bonus to servers who could commit to a minimum of three months. He also pays potential employees for both an observational shift and a training shift.“We’re establishing a baseline for what people should be paid,” he said.As Ontario moves into Step 3 of its reopening plan, restaurants are scrambling to fill positions that were lost when COVID-19 decimated the industry. The catch? They’re all looking at the same time — leading to what some are calling a labour shortage, and others, a short-term bottleneck.Read more: Higher wages, signing bonuses, benefits on the menu as restaurants struggle to bring back workers.8:01 a.m.: Vietnam announced a 15-day lockdown in the capital Hanoi starting Saturday as a coronavirus surge spread from the southern Mekong Delta region. The lockdown order, issued late Friday night, bans the gathering of more than two people in public. Only government offices, hospitals and essential businesses are allowed to stay open. Earlier in the week, the city had suspended all outdoor activities and ordered non-essential businesses to close following an increase in cases. On Friday, Hanoi reported 70 confirmed infections, the city’s highest, part of a record 7,295 cases in the country in the last 24 hours. Nearly 5,000 of them are from Vietnam’s largest metropolis, southern Ho Chi Minh City, which has also extended its lockdown until Aug. 1. 8 a.m.: Everyone in a county in China’s southwest near Myanmar will be tested for the coronavirus following a spike in infections, the government announced Saturday.Businesses, schools and markets in Jiangcheng County in Yunnan province will close Monday and Tuesday while nucleic acid testing is carried out, the government said. Travel into and out of the county will be prohibited.Yunnan has reported a

Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reports 170 cases of COVID-19, 3 deaths and more than 19,100 tests completed; Thousands in Sydney, other Australian cities protest lockdown restrictions

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Saturday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

10:27 a.m.: Ontario is reporting 170 cases of COVID-19 and more than 19,100 tests completed.

Locally, there are 44 new cases in Toronto, 26 in Peel Region, 17 in Hamilton, 15 in the Region of Waterloo and 13 in Grey Bruce.

As of 8 p.m. Friday, 18,848,661 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, including 124,261 doses administered.

9:56 a.m.: Tanzania on Saturday received its first batch of 1 million Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines donated by the U.S. government.

Tanzania had been among the few countries in Africa yet to receive vaccines or start inoculating its population against the COVID-19 pandemic, mainly because its former leader had denied claimed prayer had defeated COVID-19 in the country.

The vaccines were received by Foreign Affairs Minister Liberata Mulamula and the U.S. ambassador to Tanzania, Donald Wright, at the Julius Nyerere International Airport in the country's commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.

Former Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who died in March, had refused to accept vaccines after he claimed three days of prayer had healed the country of the coronavirus in June 2020.

Magufuli, 61, was among the world's most prominent skeptics of COVID-19. Though his official cause of death was reported to be cardiac arrest, Magufuli's critics believe he died of COVID-19.

9:55 a.m.: Far-right activists and members of France’s yellow vest movement are holding protests Saturday against a bill requiring everyone to have a special virus pass to enter restaurants and other venues and mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for all health care workers.

Legislators in France’s Senate are debating the bill Saturday after the lower house of parliament approved it Friday.

French virus infections are spiking and hospitalizations are rising anew. The government is trying to speed up vaccination to protect vulnerable populations and hospitals and avoid new lockdowns.

Most French adults are fully vaccinated and polls indicate a majority of French people support the new measures.

But not everyone. Protesters chanting “Liberty! Liberty!” marched through Paris in one of multiple demonstrations planned Saturday.

Last weekend, more than 100,000 people protested around France against the measures. They included far-right politicians and activists as well as some others angry at President Emmanuel Macron for various reasons.

8:05 a.m.: It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on restaurants — both their owners and their workers, many of whom have been in and out of work for a year and a half.

For some in the industry, it has also been a wake-up call.

Adam Colquhoun, owner of Oyster Boy in Toronto, said the pandemic only sped up his plans to change how he compensates his workers.

Though his pre-pandemic wages were already above average, Colquhoun said he boosted pay for all positions at his restaurant, and has even given some workers a share in the company.

With restaurants now welcoming back indoor diners, it’s been hard to get front-of-house staff, said Colquhoun, so he offered a $1,000 retention bonus to servers who could commit to a minimum of three months. He also pays potential employees for both an observational shift and a training shift.

“We’re establishing a baseline for what people should be paid,” he said.

As Ontario moves into Step 3 of its reopening plan, restaurants are scrambling to fill positions that were lost when COVID-19 decimated the industry. The catch? They’re all looking at the same time — leading to what some are calling a labour shortage, and others, a short-term bottleneck.

Read more: Higher wages, signing bonuses, benefits on the menu as restaurants struggle to bring back workers.

8:01 a.m.: Vietnam announced a 15-day lockdown in the capital Hanoi starting Saturday as a coronavirus surge spread from the southern Mekong Delta region.

The lockdown order, issued late Friday night, bans the gathering of more than two people in public. Only government offices, hospitals and essential businesses are allowed to stay open.

Earlier in the week, the city had suspended all outdoor activities and ordered non-essential businesses to close following an increase in cases. On Friday, Hanoi reported 70 confirmed infections, the city’s highest, part of a record 7,295 cases in the country in the last 24 hours.

Nearly 5,000 of them are from Vietnam’s largest metropolis, southern Ho Chi Minh City, which has also extended its lockdown until Aug. 1.

8 a.m.: Everyone in a county in China’s southwest near Myanmar will be tested for the coronavirus following a spike in infections, the government announced Saturday.

Businesses, schools and markets in Jiangcheng County in Yunnan province will close Monday and Tuesday while nucleic acid testing is carried out, the government said. Travel into and out of the county will be prohibited.

Yunnan has reported a spike in infections traced to nearby Myanmar, where a military government that seized power in February is struggling to contain a surge in cases. Beijing has tightened border controls.

Jiangcheng County, southeast of the city of Pu’er, is on China’s border with Vietnam and Laos. It doesn’t directly border Myanmar.

On Saturday, the Yunnan health agency reported five new infections, all in people it said lived recently in Myanmar.

Saturday 7:59 a.m.: Thousands of people took to the streets of Sydney and other Australian cities on Saturday to protest lockdown restrictions amid another surge in cases, and police made several arrests after crowds broke through barriers and threw plastic bottles and plants.

The unmasked participants marched from Sydney’s Victoria Park to Town Hall in the central business district, carrying signs calling for “freedom” and “the truth.”

There was a heavy police presence in Sydney, including mounted police and riot officers in response to what authorities said was unauthorized protest activity. Police confirmed a number of arrests had been made.

New South Wales Police said it recognized and supported the rights of free speech and peaceful assembly, but the protest was a breach of public health orders.

“The priority for NSW Police is always the safety of the wider community,” a police statement said.

The protest comes as COVID-19 case numbers in the state reached another record with 163 new infections in the last 24 hours.

Read Friday’s coronavirus news.

Source : Toronto Star More   

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