The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce is asking that the provincial government delay the implementation of a COVID-19 vaccine verification system, citing concerns around the lack of government preparation and support for those businesses who will be required to enact the mandate.
“Businesses that will be impacted by this decision want to know how it will be enforced and what support government will provide them,” said Dan Rogers, the Chamber’s executive director.
“There needs to be clarity so that employees are not unfairly put in conflict with customers so we would encourage government to re-examine the timeline for implementation so businesses can fully understand and reasonably plan for what it appears the government is going to ask them to do.”
On Monday, the provincial government announced that starting Sept. 13, proof of at least one dose of vaccine against COVID-19 will be required in B.C. for those wishing to gain access to certain settings and events, which includes indoor ticketed sporting events, indoor and patio dining in restaurants, fitness centres, casinos and indoor organized events.
By Oct. 24, entry to these settings will require people to be fully vaccinated at least seven days after receiving both doses.
“This is to address those situations where we are in indoor settings with people who may not yet have been vaccinated,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. “This temporary order will be reassessed as the B.C. vaccine card requirement is fully implemented in certain social and recreational centre settings.”
Results from a survey of Kelowna Chamber of Commerce members revealed that a majority of respondents were supportive of a vaccine verification system for non-essential activities, while more than a third strongly opposed the notion.
Members were polled from Aug. 20 to 24, which saw a turnout of more than 25 per cent (268) of the Kelowna Chamber’s 1,000 members.
Fifty-seven per cent of members said they were supportive of the implementation of a vaccine verification system, while 36 per cent were against it.
“Our members have strong feelings on this subject,” said Jeffrey Robinson, the president of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce.
Additionally, 31 per cent of members said that they were considering plans to restrict access to their business, while 61 per cent said that they weren’t. Sixty-two per cent of members said that they were in favour of using a low-to-no-cost rapid test kit if it were available, while 24 per cent were opposed.
“The common ground seems to be a desire to return to normal, but there are fundamental differences over whether requiring some private businesses to refuse service to unvaccinated customers is consistent with that goal,” said Robinson.
With 62 per cent of members in favour of alternative methods to prove they are not infectious, such as using no-cost rapid test kits, Robinson said that the provincial government should consider such methods.
“Given that a significant minority of our population are deeply opposed to vaccination, we think it is incumbent on the government to explore these alternatives,” he said.
“There are many businesses not being subject to mandatory vaccine verification that are eager to protect their employees and customers using testing.”
The Chamber added that they would also like to see an end date entrenched in the order.
“We can appreciate that increased vaccinations will help us get back to normal, but we continue to call on the government to lay out a long-term plan as to what the regulations will be when vaccinations reach their limit in B.C. — whatever that limit turns out to be,” said Rogers