The Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce thinks a vaccine passport is a good idea in principle but has questions about how it will be implemented and enforced.
“I am not sure whether small businesses right now are capable of having to try to be the enforcer of that passport,” says executive director Tom Thomson.
He said large chain businesses might have the resources to hire extra staff or a security guard, but for smaller local businesses implementation of a passport will add even more stress and expense to an already difficult time.
“It’s difficult to say to a front-line staffer, ‘OK, normally you’re a server, but we want you to go to the front door and patrol this, without having any kind of extra assistance.’”
He says the chamber has no problem with passports required at such things as sports events and concerts where a ticket-taking infrastructure and staffing are already in place to handle a passport.
Thomson says the province has said it won’t be providing any more information on implementation of the passports until after Labour Day.
Nelson businesses deserve more discussion and assistance, Thomson says, because of the sacrifices they have made over the past 18 months.
“They have done everything asked of them, many times with less than 24 hours’ notice, including business sector closures, take-out restaurant meals only, mask-use orders, group-gathering size, changes to liquor sales hours, to name just a few. All these conditions have had a tremendous impact on business owners and employees both financially and emotionally.”
He has sent a letter to health minister Adrian Dix asking for more consultation and guidance on timing, implementation, and enforcement.
The letter also asks that the passport program be temporary and that businesses be compensated for costs connected with enforcing it. It requests that all aspects of the program be discussed with the B.C. Chamber of Commerce to ensure the system is “fair, effective, and prioritizes the safety of the business owners, employees, and workers responsible for its enforcement.”
The Castlegar Chamber of Commerce is sending a similar letter to the province, with questions about lack of implementation, enforcement, provincial support, duration, and employee stress.
What about Nelson businesses that declare they will not take part in the vaccine card program?
Thomson says that is one of the questions he hopes the government will answer before Sept. 13. It would be a workplace health and safety matter so there could be fines levied by the province for people who don’t comply.
In the case of restaurants, people will have the option of getting takeout, he said, which would not require a vaccine card.
As of Aug. 31, in the Nelson local health area that includes Salmo and parts of the Slocan Valley, 74 per cent of eligible people have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 65 per cent have received both doses, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control.
Forty-two per cent of 12-to-17-year-olds are fully vaccinated, 57 per cent of 18-to-49-year-olds are fully vaccinated, and 76 per cent of people ages 50 and older have received both doses.