Nervous workers, defiant businesses and a fistfight: Here’s how Day 1 of B.C.’s vaccine passport went – Toronto Star

Restaurants remained busy on the first day of vaccine cards in Victoria.

By Alex McKeenVancouver Bureau

Mon., Sept. 13, 20215 min. read

VICTORIA—The first day of British Columbia’s program requiring that residents have vaccine cards to gain entry to non-essential businesses was met with tension in the streets and anxiety from the businesses required to enforce the rules.

The rollout of B.C.’s so-called vaccine passport Monday — the same day groups of protesters across the country targeted hospitals over pandemic restrictions and vaccine mandates — could serve as an example of what is yet to come in Ontario, where a proof-of-vaccination program comes into effect next week.

On busy Government Street in downtown Victoria, the restaurant business appeared to be booming — sunny patios filling with tourists and locals alike. Only small things indicated a change, such as the signs instructing people to have their vaccine card and identification ready, and, in some cases, security guards posted at what is typically the host’s stand.

Those working in the restaurants said they’d heard rumours that people opposed to the vaccine card program were going to phone in fake takeout orders in a bid to punish restaurants that were complying with the public health order.

Brendan Wirges, who was bartending at The Churchill downtown, said his boss decided no takeout orders would be accepted that day. Other than that, Wirges said, he had only dealt with one incident — a couple who came in to say they would sue every restaurant down the block for refusing to seat them without a vaccine card.

“I told them they should go ahead and do that,” Wirges said. “I’m just worried for the hosts. They are going to deal with a lot of these people.”

Travis Clark was taking his lunch break from a construction job when he heard shouting and looked around.

Two men were chasing and grabbing each other in the street, trying to land punches, in the middle of a four-way intersection.

One man carried a sign comparing vaccine cards to Nazism. The sign read “No (Swastika) Pass.”

Clark was watching when the fight began.

“(The one man) tried to go after the guy’s swastika sign and then; (the other man) started hitting him. And they both started chasing each other.”

After police arrived, the men continued shouting at each other but eventually calmed down. Neither would give their name to the Star. The man with the swastika sign went to lean against some construction fencing to smoke, and said he would not speak to any media because he believed the media was part of “the cabal.” That term is often used by conspiracy theorists such as QAnoners, who contend the world is being secretly controlled by a malevolent power.

Police in Vancouver, meanwhile, said they were monitoring protests and had no “significant issues” as of Monday afternoon.

Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, said the response among its members to the vaccine-card system had mostly been positive, though a handful of businesses had said they would not comply.

She said some claim they don’t have the resources or capacity to implement the system, which is seen as yet another rule imposed by the provincial government after 18 difficult months.

“It’s a new process and, yes, it’s one added layer that a business has to engage in, but necessary so that businesses don’t shut down,” Huberman said.

She said the operator of a live music venue in White Rock recently told her that 20 per cent of people who had booked tickets for an upcoming show had cancelled because they didn’t want to show their vaccination status.

A provincial guide to the vaccine card for businesses shows fines can range from $230 to $575 for individuals, depending on the violation, while event organizers, owners and operators could be fined $2,300 for failure to comply with system.

Health officials addressed reports of restaurants and other business dealing with angry or protesting customers due to the vaccine card.

“These are rules that we put on,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday. “It really stuns and saddens me to find that people would find that an acceptable way to express their frustrations.”

Some going to indoor spaces said they were glad to have the vaccine requirements as an added level of protection.

Kailen Fennerty, a first-year student at the University of Victoria, said it felt a little strange to be going into lecture halls with 200 people or more.

“I just hope my Pfizer vaccine is working,” she said.

University students in B.C. are not required to be vaccinated to be on campus, but they do have to agree to be tested regularly for COVID-19 if they are not vaccinated.

Where is the vaccine card required?

As of Sept. 13, people in B.C. need at least one dose of vaccine to get into indoor sporting events, indoor concerts, indoor dining, nightclubs, high-intensity fitness centres, organized gatherings such as weddings and recreational classes and activities.

Staff of the restricted venues will not be universally required to use the vaccine certificate, but employers can decide to require staff to get vaccinated.

The card will not be used for access to retail stores, faith services, health services or grocery stores.

British Columbians will need to have two doses of vaccine by Oct. 24.

What does the card look like?

The vaccine card has three components: A person’s name, their vaccination status and a QR code that restaurants and other businesses can scan using a phone or tablet.

British Columbians can download the card onto their phone, or download it on the computer and print it off. Paper vaccine records are also accepted until Sept. 26.

What do card-checkers see when they scan the QR code?

People using the QR code to check the vaccine card will see one of three terms: vaccinated, partially vaccinated, or unvaccinated.

What if someone visits B.C. from out-of-province?

People from outside B.C. can use whatever proof of vaccination they have from their own jurisdiction to get into the restricted places.

When does Ontario’s system take effect?

Starting Sept. 22, Ontario residents will need a certificate showing they are fully vaccinated to go to a gym, the movies, a nightclub or to dinner inside a restaurant.

With files from The Canadian Press