The South Shuswap Chamber of Commerce argues local businesses shouldn’t be burdened with having to enforce a provincial vaccine passport system.
On Thursday, Aug. 26, the chamber issued a statement in support of using every tool available to ensure businesses can stay open in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. One tool, the proposed B.C. vaccine card that is to be implemented on Sept. 13, gives the chamber cause for concern. According to the province, as of the Sept. 13, proof of one COVID-19 vaccine dose will be required for a variety of indoor activities, as well as patio dining. By Oct. 24, proof of two doses will be required for those activities.
The South Shuswap chamber is concerned that businesses will be tasked with having to enforce these requirements.
“While it may make sense to see the wearing of masks returned temporarily or for the rollout of a vaccine passport program, it simply cannot be left to frontline staff to enforce these policies,” said chamber president Lynn Ewart.
“Employers have struggled through this pandemic for over a year-and-a-half. A massive labour shortage is challenging our business owners to find and retain staff. Now the province is asking business owners and their frontline staff to enforce this mandate. It’s simply too much to ask of them.”
A full list of settings where proof of vaccination will be required, as well as more information, is available on the government of B.C.’s website.
As of Aug. 23, Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said children under 12 will be exempt from the card. However, people who are unable to receive a COVID-19 vaccine for health or religious reasons will not be exempt. Cards won’t be necessary at grocery and retail stores or places of worship. They also won’t be required for K-12 schools and before and after-school programs, which are governed by their own guidelines.
Chamber executive director Karen Brown noted how over the past 18 months, local businesses have fought through the pandemic to keep their doors open. She said in addition to staff shortages, employers have also had to contend with this summer’s wildfire situation, the resulting smoke, misleading media coverage and the return of pandemic related restrictions including a provincial advisory not to travel to this region.
“Our businesses are struggling to cope and we are trying to understand how the frontline staff are going to manage this and what tools, if any, they will be given to do so,” said Brown.
The chamber will continue to work with its regional partners and the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, the Tourism Industry Association of British Columbia and the BC Chamber of Commerce to advocate at the provincial level for “reasonable and effective implementation of plans moving forward,” reiterating the words of BC Chamber CEO Fiona Famulak, that “It is incumbent on government to work with us on the program details to ensure it is fair, effective and prioritizes the safety of the business owners, employees and workers responsible for program enforcement.”
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