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Vaccination QR codes present new problems

New COVID vaccine QR codes require businesses and services to download verifier app.
okotoks-local-news

Okotoks - QR codes will soon be the only way Albertans will be able to prove their COVID vaccination status and local businesses and services anticipate problems.

Premier Jason Kenney announced Oct. 12 the Province has created a QR code verifier app for businesses to scan unique QR codes.

Albertans can download their COVID vaccine QR code and show it to businesses that require proof of vaccination, such as restaurants, recreation facilities and libraries that are participating in the Restrictions Exemption Program (REP).

Businesses participating in REP can operate at full capacity but only allow in people who are fully vaccinated.

The QR code records are available at www.alberta.ca/covidrecords and require an Alberta Health Care number, month and year of vaccination and a birth date. They will replace vaccination record cards rolled out by the Province in September when REP was announced.

Health Minister Jason Copping said the new QR cards will be safer and more efficient.

“Ten days ago, we took the next step we took the next step – a more secure vaccine record with a watermark and a QR code,” Copping said. “Over 800,000 Albertans have already accessed their enhanced records over the past week.”

A vaccine record verifier app has been created for businesses to scan the QR codes from a phone and will generate a green checkmark for those who are fully vaccinated or a red ‘x’ for those who are not.

The QR code will be the only acceptable form of proof of COVID vaccination starting Nov. 15.

Tasha Sailer, general manager of Grand Central Bar and Grill in Okotoks, said she has not received any information from the Province yet on implementing the QR code vaccination scanning.

“I feel like I have to ask more questions than anything because nothing is ever clear with what they say in their announcements,” she said.

Sailer said the QR codes will likely cause problems for some of their customers.

“Some of our elderly (customers) it took me up to a week to get to where we are now with their little pieces of paper and now it’s not good enough,” she said.

Denying people entry who have already taken the steps to get their vaccine records and show it to staff does not seem fair, Sailer said.

The Province should have rolled out all the REP requirements at once like British Columbia, she said.

“Now it’s just another step we have to take,” said Sailer.

The Town of Okotoks is in the process of getting equipped to scan the QR codes.

iPads will be purchased to use to scan the QR code at the front desk of the Recreation Centre and Pason Centennial Arena, the two Town facilities that are participating in the exemption program, said Town of Okotoks facility manager, Doug Robson. A private security company working for the Town is also preparing to be able to scan the QR codes, said Robson.

“We are looking at about a week or so out and then we will probably start using the QR scanner,” he said. “At this point it is just getting everything lined up.”

Currently, the Town is accepting proof of vaccination or vaccination exemptions and is not scanning QR codes.

The need to provide proof of vaccination hasn’t caused problems so far, said Robson.

“We’ve had the odd person who has said they don’t believe it and walked out of the building,” he said. “Overall, nothing significant.”

On the other hand, the Oilfields Arena is participating in REP and the Town of Black Diamond has hired a security guard after two incidents with patrons angry over having to show their vaccine records. Turner Valley RCMP are investigating.

Some businesses, like Okotoks Cinemas and the Okotoks Public Library, have decided to not participate in REP are limiting its capacity to one-third their fire code occupancy, creating two metres distancing between groups and requiring customers to wear a mask while they are out of their seat.

According to the Okotoks Cinemas website, they “will be allowing all healthy individuals to see a movie at our theatre, regardless of vaccination status” and thanked people for “respecting the difficult position we are in.”

Some Black Diamond restaurants contacted by the Western Wheel also said they are only offering take-out during the COVID pandemic.

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