Early indications are that South Surrey and White Rock businesses will be resigned to new provincial rules establishing a ‘vaccine passport’ as proof of immunization for admission to a range of venues, according to Chamber of Commerce executive director Ritu Khanna and Alex Nixon, executive director of the White Rock Business Improvement Association.
But both said they are concerned that the move puts local business people or their employees in the position of enforcing the province’s directive – and dealing with the fallout from upset customers.
Both added they would like to know more about what support provincial authorities are going to provide businesses in administering and enforcing the rules.
In rules released Monday, as of Sept. 13 members of the public will have to show a new ‘BC Vaccine Card’, to prove they have received a first vaccine shot, to be admitted to indoor ticketed events (including concerts and live theatre); indoor and patio dining; night clubs and casinos; movie theatres, gyms, pools and recreation facilities; indoor group exercise and recreational classes and indoor organized gatherings.
As of Oct. 24 the BC Vaccine Card will have to show proof of a second vaccine dose for people to be admitted to these venues.
In an attempt to gauge reaction to the vaccine passport, a poll of some 1,800 businesses and individuals on the South Surrey and White Rock Chamber’s email list was sent out as part of a bulletin on Tuesday morning, Khanna said.
By early Tuesday afternoon, with responses from about 11 per cent of the list, 59.6 per cent said their reaction to the measure was positive, with a further seven per cent ‘somewhat positive’ and 3.5 per cent classing their reaction as ‘neutral’.
Some 22.8 per cent of responders reacted negatively, with a further 3.5 per cent ranking their reaction as ‘somewhat negative’.
“I was surprised by how many had already responded,” Khanna said.
She acknowledged that “it’s important to get as many people vaccinated as possible, because businesses can’t afford to go into another lock-down. The challenge is ‘how do we get more people following the protocols without getting into a full lockdown’,
At the same time, she said, “it’s the businesses that are being asked to be the gatekeepers for the new policy.”
While there is some leeway before the measure goes into effect on Sept. 13, Khanna said, “you’re trying to give people some notice.”
She noted that the Chamber’s own golf tournament, scheduled for Sept. 23 and technically sold-out, will be impacted, and registered guests will have to be emailed with new details.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what kind of tools the government is going to provide to businesses,” she added. “You’re going to have a host at a restaurant having to ask for vaccination I.D., which could create a difficult and awkward situation for somebody. We’ve already had incidents in the community of (abuse) from people who didn’t want to follow the mask mandate, even vandalism.”
Khanna noted that businesses are also dealing with a labour shortage.
“This is going to add another layer of training and staffing,” she said, adding that, in light of White Rock’s slightly older population, she hoped that key information is not going to be provided exclusively online or through apps, which could be challenging for some.
Nixon said he had not heard feedback from a lot of BIA members as of Tuesday morning to the provincial announcement, but shared Khanna’s concerns that “businesses will be placed in difficult situations where they will have to argue with potential customers.”
“There’s so much we don’t know yet about how this will work and what sort of paperwork will be available to the businesses,” he said.
“I’m hoping the province provides additional guidelines – this is more challenging to enforce than an indoor mask mandate.
“We want to know what the expectation is of businesses and what the enforcement mechanisms are.
“Obviously we would like people to be safe – we want the pandemic to be over,” he said.