Vaccination Certificates Can Help Open Up The Economy

In January, Prime Minister Trudeau said he was opposed to a vaccine passport for people who had received inoculations, apparently because he found it complicated. He does not seem to have considered the impact they could have on tourism and other sectors of the economy.

Fortunately, developments in other countries have forced a rethink. The European Union is developing a Digital Green Certificate, able to be downloaded onto your phones. For those who have been vaccinated, it will contain details of which vaccine they received, and when. This will allow countries to make decisions about admitting people based on their own protocols for acceptability.

It’s not called a vaccination passport, because you don’t need to be vaccinated to get it. You can also get a certificate saying that you have had Covid-19 (and recovered) or have had a negative Covid-19 test before departure.

Citizens of non-EU countries can apply for the Certificate which will be required of anyone wanting to travel there.

Tourism is extremely important to Canada’s economy. We need to find ways to safely admit travellers from other countries. Trudeau has now noticed that and has done an about-face.

As reported this week in the National Post, he said talks are ongoing with G7 partners and some G20 countries for a vaccine certification. “It would make sense for us to align with partners around the world on some sort of proof of vaccination or vaccine certification,” he told reporters.

Right, but Tourism Minister Melanie Joly implied that nothing can be done until we are fully back to normal: “Canada is working with international partners to develop a standardized vaccine certification for travel and will position itself as a safe destination once the country has reached COVID-19 herd immunity.”

Long-suffering travel and hospitality operators need the government to move faster than that. Canada is on track to offer the first dose of COVID-19 vaccines to every eligible Canadian by the end of June and the second doses by the end of September. First doses have been shown to have substantial protective value.

Provinces that have restricted travel from other parts of Canada now include BC. Assuming that the third wave has been tamped down by the end of June, those provinces should allow people from other provinces with appropriate vaccination credentials to visit without having to quarantine.

It would be absurd if it were easier for someone from Toronto to visit Paris than Halifax.

Likewise, vaccinated Atlantic Canadians should be able to visit provinces further west knowing that they will not have to quarantine on return.

Meanwhile, officials are beginning to wonder when the border between Canada and the US may go back to normal. Full reopening may be many months away, but facilitating visits should be dealt with incrementally.

President Biden has set a goal that 70% of Americans have at least one shot by July 4 and 50% of them be fully vaccinated by then. Americans with fully vaccinated credentials should be allowed unhindered visits to Canada.

Last week’s fearless forecast for Nova Scotia in this space was submitted before the extent of the testing backlog was made public. The variants are more serious and more easily transmitted.

The forecast should have been more fearful. The short-term predictions will at best be weeks later.

Canada’s vaccination goals are to have everyone over 16 able to get the first shot by the end of June and a second shot by the end of September. By that time, adolescents will begin to be included.

Progress toward those goals is good. Unless the efficacy of the vaccines is worse with some future variant, we should see lasting relaxation of public health restrictions as summer progresses.

Whether that can extend to travel in and out of Nova Scotia will depend on Ottawa’s progress toward an equivalent to the EU’s Digital Green Certificate.

It is not just travel-related industries that can benefit. Groups of workers in offices or on assembly lines are presently required to be masked and socially distanced at their workplaces, or to work from home. Can groups that have been fully vaccinated revert to their normal distancing without masks?

Last week’s article applauded the early-stage willingness of public health officials to develop safety practices particular to different sectors of the economy. That same thoughtful approach should be employed to maximize the realization of the benefits of vaccination.


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