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Health Minister Christian Dube said Friday it is possible the vaccine passport system will be suspended and only revived during the next COVID-19 wave, if necessary.

Under questioning from opposition health critics during a hearing at the legislature, Mr. Dube suggested the passport could be dropped in the coming weeks.

“When I said the vaccine passport was there to stay, will public health recommend that we, I hope in a few weeks, suspend it because it is going better?” Mr. Dube said about the COVID-19 situation in the province. “Could we restore it if we were ever caught with another wave? That’s what you have to think about.”

Quebec was the first province to introduce a vaccine passport on Sept. 1, 2021. The government requires people to show proof of vaccination to access a lengthy list of non-essential activities and businesses, including entertainment and performance venues, gyms, bars, places of worship and restaurants.

In January, authorities extended it to government-run liquor and cannabis shops and to big-box stores of more than 1,500 square metres.

But in recent days, several provinces have announced they would be ending the proof of vaccination requirement. Alberta did away with its vaccine passport earlier this week, while Saskatchewan will stop using it as of Monday. Manitoba announced Friday it would no longer require proof of vaccination as of March 1.

During an update of the COVID-19 situation in the province earlier this week, Mr. Dube said the vaccine passport would remain in place until mid-March, when the province intends to remove most restrictions introduced during the fifth wave of the pandemic. But he added it would be a necessary tool in the event of another wave.

Mr. Dube said Quebeckers demonstrated they were in agreement with the vaccine passport, which gave them a chance to live normally during previous waves of COVID-19.

“I know that we were able to develop it very quickly,” he said about the vaccine passport system. “But I think that we will have these discussions for the future – can we restore these tools if we need them?”

Earlier on Friday, Quebec reported 39 more deaths attributed to COVID-19 and 98 fewer patients hospitalized. The Health Department said 2,214 people were in hospital with the disease, after 151 patients were admitted in the past 24 hours and 249 were discharged. It said 164 patients were listed in intensive care, a drop of nine.

Health officials also reported 2,662 new infections detected through PCR testing and another 560 positive results from take-home rapid tests uploaded to the government’s online portal.

Authorities said 30,651 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered on Thursday, including more than 20,000 booster doses.

The Health Department said that as of Friday, 91 per cent of Quebeckers had received one dose, 85 per cent had two doses, while 49 per cent had received a booster dose. More than 522,000 Quebeckers aged 18 and older are unvaccinated.

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