When Will The Quebec Vaccine Passport End? Here's What We Know
Other provinces are already ditching theirs.
While Premier François Legault emphasizes the province's slow return to a "more normal life," the government faces looming questions about one of the last big COVID-19 innovations: the Quebec vaccine passport.
The premier, Health Minister Christian Dubé and interim National Public Health Director Dr. Luc Boileau have resisted offering any firm commitments on ending the proof of vaccination requirement.
Now, as officials begin to speak more openly about learning to "live with the virus" and other provinces abandon their own health passes, could Quebec be on track to do the same?
Here's what we know.
Will the Quebec vaccine passport be lifted?
Officials have made clear that Quebec's vaccine passport system will last until "at least" mid-March, by which time a host of other restrictions will have ended.
On February 9, Health Minister Dubé explained that the proof of vaccination requirement for many activities and public spaces was part of what allowed the government to move forward with other reopenings and measure relaxations.
"What really allows us [to lift restrictions]," he said, "it's the [additional] hospital spaces we have created, but also having a vaccine passport and masking."
At a press conference in Longueuil on Monday, February 14, Premier François Legault stopped short of making any promises but suggested Quebecers will be getting some clarity on the duration of the passport system as soon as February 15.
The premier is set to meet with public health, Institut national d'excellence en santé et en services sociaux (INESSS), and Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) officials Monday evening to assess the current health situation.
The INESSS and INSPQ, Legault said, are also due to present their projections for hospitalizations and infections, respectively, in the next two weeks.
The premier reaffirmed his commitment to following public health officials' recommendations and avoiding "uncalculated risks" with the hospital system, but admitted he's hoping to achieve "the quickest possible lifting of measures"
"We are going in the right direction" in terms of COVID-19 hospitalizations, he said.
"We could probably get back tomorrow with propositions."
Could the vaccine passport ever make a comeback?
Officials are at least exploring the option.
During a question period in the National Assembly on February 11, the health minister raised the possibility of keeping the passport system in the government's back pocket and redeploying it as needed.
"I hope in a few weeks [public health will say] we can suspend it because it's getting better," Dubé said.
"But could we reinstate it if we were ever caught with another wave? That's what we have to think about. We have to think about the fact that we have succeeded in developing tools that have allowed us to continue living during pandemics."
He added that, from his perspective, a majority of Quebecers have supported the vaccine passport.
What are other provinces doing?
Other provinces aren't waiting as long as Quebec. The premiers of Alberta and Ontario, in particular, have expressed eagerness to ditch their province's proof of vaccination requirements.
Alberta ended its passport system, the Restrictions Exemption Program, as of February 9 as part of a larger phased reopening plan.
Calling COVID-19 rules "damaging," Premier Jason Kenney said it was "time to shift to a balanced approach where we are able to live with COVID-19 and return to normal."
Ontario's proof of vaccination requirement will end on March 1. The government explained the move is possible because of decreases in hospital and intensive care unit admissions.
"Given how well Ontario has done in the Omicron wave we are able to fast track our reopening plan," Premier Doug Ford said in a news release.
"This is great news and a sign of just how far we've come together in our fight against the virus. While we aren’t out of the woods just yet we are moving in the right direction."
Kenney and Ford's language of a "return to normal" and foreward movement echoes Legault's rhetoric. Whether that means the Quebec premier is as confident about the prospect of leaving the vaccine passport behind remains to be seen.
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