“Hurry up and wait” is the name of the game for Nova Scotia restaurants trying to plan for Monday’s start of the provincial proof of vaccination policy. Luc Erjavec, the Atlantic Canada vice president of Restaurants Canada, says the industry is left with a number of concerns and questions less than a week out from the new policy’s planned October 4 implementation date. He’s particularly worried about what reactions service staff will face when they have to turn away unvaccinated patrons.
“This policy is much better than a shutdown, but with that said, there comes a lot of concerns in terms of us being the ones that have to police this. That puts us in a very, very awkward position,” says Erjavec in an interview Monday.
Restaurant owners in Nova Scotia are feeling stressed and “quite burdened” Erjavec says. “At a time where we’re still not operating near normal, we’re still operating at a loss, now there’s this extreme expectation put on us to police this. And how do we know what a vaccine certificate from Alberta looks like?”
Erjavec says he’s asked the province for help to get the proof of vaccination program right. He requested training on approving POV; signage for restaurants that describes the government-mandated policy; an information campaign to inform the general public about the rules in Nova Scotia; and training for staff to learn how to “diffuse difficult situations” that could arise from enforcing the new rule. As of Monday, he hadn’t heard back on these requests.
“This is happening in six days now. We have to be ready, so that’s where the concern and uncertainty comes from,” Erjavec says.
Good Robot’s front of house manager Johnny Heighton says he’s optimistic that GR patrons will embrace the vaccine policy, just as they did the mask-wearing requirements. But right now he’s stuck “in a holding pattern” waiting on more information.
“In terms of our preparedness, we’re hurrying up and waiting,” says Heighton in an interview. “In the past 18 months we’ve done many manager meetings, staff meetings and made plans, then all to have things change overnight. So we’re really just waiting for more information.”
Heighton says the popular brew pub is waiting on some basic logistical details, like if a customer’s POV has to be checked before entering the establishment or if it can happen after they’re seated. And Erjavec says he’s heard concerns about the inevitable costs of this extra checking process, no matter whether it happens at the door or the table.
“There’s a real cost to this. You’re going to need extra staff, you’re going to have to buy scanners,” Erjavec says. “We’ve raised concerns, and the government’s been silent. We haven’t heard anything about any sort of compensation.”
Chief medical officer of health Robert Strang and premier Tim Houston are expected to provide more information Wednesday during a COVID-19 briefing about Phase 5. That briefing, which also features health minister Michelle Thompson, starts at 3pm.
What we know so far about POV
As of Monday, Oct 4, hubs of non-essential activity—including places like bars, restaurants, theatres, concerts, gyms and sports events, weddings, funerals and dance classes—will require proof that you have been twice-vaccinated. The province intends to use the federal government’s QR code-based proof of vaccination record, which is expected to be implemented soon, NS health department spokesperson Marla MacInnis says in an email. In the meantime, and even after the QR code platform is up and running, existing COVID vaccine records will be accepted.
The POV policy will apply to only participants or patrons at the event or space, though the province is allowing businesses and organizations to implement their own vaccine requirements.
The province did not say how those with a medical contraindications to the COVID vaccine will be asked to prove their exception, but the province confirmed that medical exceptions will be granted only by an individual’s family doctor or nurse practitioner, who must determine that someone qualifies “based on a very limited and specific list of criteria.”
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia issued a letter to its members last week providing guidance on medical vaccine exemptions to its members Monday. The list of valid contraindications includes a severe allergic reaction to a previous COVID vaccine or an allergy to one of the specific components of the vaccine. Anyone who had a blood clot history, or capillary leak syndrome after AstraZeneca shot is also exempt.
An excerpt from a NACI statement is included in the letter to physicians: “immunosuppression, auto-immune disorders, pregnancy and breastfeeding are not contraindications to COVID immunization.”