Vaccine passports aren’t needed right now in New Brunswick, but they could be issued in the future to make travel more easy within Canada, Premier Blaine Higgs said Wednesday.
The province isn’t seeing the high levels of cases and COVID-19-related hospitalizations being experienced in provinces such as Quebec, where a vaccine passport system was launched Wednesday, Higgs told reporters.
“We don’t have the urgency that Quebec or Ontario have because their level of hospitalizations and their outbreak of cases, their density of population is very different from ours,” he said.
About 75.5 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers are fully vaccinated and 84.7 per cent have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, the premier added.
Meanwhile, health officials reported 11 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday and 21 more recoveries from the disease. New Brunswick has 127 active reported cases and three people in hospital, including one in intensive care.
Higgs said if more provinces start to require proof of vaccination, New Brunswick may have to introduce a vaccine passport in order to ensure residents can easily travel within Canada.
“I think what we’re going to find is that basically, if you want to travel outside of New Brunswick it may become necessary,” Higgs said.
“If our residents are restricted because of the need for verification on a standardized basis then that would be the impetus to do so at this point,” he said. “Right now we’re quite comfortable where we stand.”
Higgs said with the end of summer and start to the school year there has been a rise in the number of people getting vaccinated. He said if that stalls, it may become a reason to impose vaccination passports.
The premier said public health and information technology staff are looking at what would be needed to introduce online vaccination passports for use on smartphones. He said he also wanted to be sure the rules are clear in case businesses such as restaurants ask for passports from customers.
Higgs said he’s hoping to get some direction from the federal government. The federal Liberals have promised during the election campaign $1 billion to the provinces to subsidize their vaccine passport systems.
“The federal government is pushing for a standardized policy so when we put it in place we do it right,” he said. “It likely will come but there’s not a sense of urgency here. The important thing is to do it right.”
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