MONTREAL -- Quebec's vaccine passport is being used by businesses and services across the province, limiting access to non-essential shopping and activities for those who aren't fully vaccinated. 

The VaxiCode app can be downloaded on Apple and Android devices.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said in August 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.

"We must protect our health-care staff but we must also protect our economy."

HOW IT WORKS

People 13 years old and up in Quebec have to present their QR code in the new VaxiCode app to access non-essential services. The QR code stores the user’s vaccine information and it will show a green or red pass depending on the person’s vaccination status.

quebec vaccine passport

Quebec's COVID-19 vaccine passport will display red or green depending the user's vaccination status. (Source: Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services)

In addition to the vaccine passport, people are 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 is 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. 

As of Sept. 15, businesses who don’t check people’s vaccination status can face fines up to $6,000.

The health minister said the rules are being 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 uphold the new policy.

"It's the same thing as a mask wearing. Let's keep it simple," said Dube.

"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."

WHAT ABOUT TRAVELLERS TO QUEBEC?

Travellers from outside the province don't need to download Quebec's VaxiCode app, but they do need to be fully vaccinated.

Instead, those visiting from Ontario, for example, or international travellers, will need to present their official proof of full vaccination provided by their own jurisdictions, as well as a photo ID.

The health minister said there are no other additional requirements for visitors to Quebec who want to access places like restaurants and live events.

WHERE IS THE PASSPORT REQUIRED?

The government of Quebec has published a long list of places where people will need to present their vaccine passport. 

Locations where it is mandatory include events and festivals, theatres, casinos, arcades, cruises, several sports such as karate, crossfit and basketball, indoor sports such as swimming, gymnastics, and trampolines. It's also required for amusement rides, zoos, botanical gardens, biodomes, paintball, and bowling. 

The passport is not necessary for drive-thrus and take-out services, libraries, and museums. Homeless people will not be required to use the vaccine passport for access to indoor dining rooms and patios, according to the government. 

Visit the ministry of health website for a full list (French only) of places and activities where the vaccine passport is required. 

EXCEPTIONS FOR PEOPLE WHO CAN'T GET VACCINATED

For the "very rare" cases where people are exempt from vaccinations, Dube said "a directive will be sent to doctors, and they can fill out a form, and then we will enter it in the vaccination registry so that people can also get the green light on their [mobile] application."

'THIS IS CRIMINAL,' SAYS DUBÉ ON VACCINE FRAUD

There have already been cases reported of people trying to fake their proof of vaccination, something federal officials are monitoring as more provinces announce plans to follow Quebec’s lead and issue their own vaccine passports.

In Montreal, people have allegedly bribed health-care workers in order to get phony proof of vaccination. Police are investigating after there was a report that a person allegedly offered a nurse at a vaccination clinic a bag containing several hundred dollars in cash on the condition that she throw the vaccine in the garbage and give him a faked proof of vaccination.

In August, Dubé said people could face charges under the Criminal Code for faking an official document and face a fine ranging from $1,000 to $6,000.

"The only thing that I'm saying very clearly: this is criminal," he said. 

"The minute you have something that is criminal on your case you cannot travel. So I think the cost of that in terms of quality of life is so huge. I don't know why somebody would take that risk for something that you can get — a vaccine — for free."

Canadians who want to report COVID-19-related frauds, including fake test results and records, should contact their local police and report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) toll free at 1-888-495-8501 or online at antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca.

SECURITY CONCERNS

There have been security concerns raised surrounding the vaccine passport ever since it was announced earlier in the spring. The province says the app was developed according to the "HL7 smart health card standard" and that it is comparable to other vaccination applications used in countries such as France, Switzerland, and Israel.

"The QR code includes a Government of Quebec signature, which is unalterable," the government stated in a technical briefing document released Tuesday. "The application can detect if the QR code has been falsified or if it is a fake."

According to the government, only a user’s name, date of birth and vaccination information is stored in the QR code.

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