Mixed reaction, so far, on QR-code 'vaccine passports' coming to Quebec Thursday
MONTREAL -- Quebec's provincial health ministry is set to roll out its digital proof of vaccinations on Thursday, and much is still left to be determined -- but so far the idea is getting mixed reactions from the public.
Feedback from people on the street who spoke to CTV News on Wednesday range from "it’s absolutely necessary," as one person said, to a more reticent Quebecer, who "would tend not to push for that."
The proof will be in the form of a QR code, or Quick Response code. It's similar to a barcode that, when scanned by a smartphone camera, for example, brings up relevant information on the screen.
In this case, it will provide proof that someone has received a vaccine against COVID-19, much like when an airplane boarding pass or concert ticket is scanned.
People who have gotten a first dose of the vaccine will receive the code, which will replace the paper-based proof of vaccination that is currently used.
Ethical considerations have been raised around how or when Canadians will be asked for proof of vaccination, but the Quebec government has said there is currently no program available to read the codes -- only the government can do so.
- Read more: Digital vaccination 'passports' coming to Quebecers Thursday, but they have no purpose yet
Some business owners want that to change, fast. The digital passports are a novel idea used in other parts of the world, and in Quebec, it would be a gift for the restaurant business, according to Peter Sergakis.
Sergakis, who owns more than 40 resto-bars in Montreal and is the president of the Union des tenanciers de bars du Québec, said he supports the idea if it means it will allow the struggling industry to reopen.
"Let’s open now -- it’s summer, for Christ’s sake," he said Wednesday.
DIGITAL PROOF USED IN ISRAEL
A similar concept is being used now in Israel, which has among the highest vaccination rates in the world.
In that country, the so-called "Green Pass" on smartphones is available to anyone who has been fully vaccinated or has had COVID-19 and can be shown at places such as theatres and gyms, according to the BBC.
Gil Troy, a McGill University history professor who lives in Israel, said the Green Pass has been "amazing."
"I've been to weddings with 300 people, I've been to restaurants. We've been able to go back to normal in this little growing bubble,” he told CTV News.
"It's been a passport back to normalcy."
However, one of the challenges in Israel is enforcement.
"We went to a middle-level restaurant and we didn't have to show our passport. We went to a high end restaurant and we did have to show our passport," Troy said.
"Look, it's an awkward thing, the government asking the restaurants to police this."
But back home, it’s not quite clear how the QR codes will work. The Ministry of Health and Social Services said the program will be rolled out this week despite not having a plan in place for how it will be applied.
People with the codes "will be, at one point, able to use it for something, but at this stage, nothing has been decided," said health minister Christian Dube on Tuesday.
It’s something that restaurant owners, according to Sergakis, are more than willing to offer as they anxiously wait to reopen.
He estimates a quarter of all restaurants are permanently out of business due to the public health restrictions and time is of the essence.
"The playoffs are starting next week. It's very important for us," he said.
While the QR code could help them reopen, it may still be at least a month before that happens if the government decides that is what the QR code could be used for.