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Here’s what you need to know about Alberta’s vaccine passport and health restrictions

Thomas Lambert

September 16, 2021


On September 15, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney declared a state of emergency to push through his vaccine passport system. Starting September 16, Kenney will subject Albertans across the province to a whole host of new restrictions and discriminatory rules.

“These steps are not easy for anyone, but with COVID-19 hospitalizations continuing to rise, particularly amongst the unvaccinated, we have no choice but to implement the proof of vaccination measures and temporary restrictions,” Kenney said in a statement.

According to the Alberta government, only those businesses or event organizers who choose to implement Kenney’s vaccine passport system get to go unmolested by the provincial government after September 20. After that, all other businesses are subject to the new health measures.

The following measures will take effect on September 16:

  • Workplaces now must impose mandatory work-from-home measures unless the employer has determined a physical presence is required for operational effectiveness.

  •  Indoor private gatherings for vaccine-eligible, fully vaccinated individuals are limited to a single household plus one other household to a maximum of 10 people, with no restrictions on children under the age of 12.

  • The unvaccinated will be prevented from entering any indoor private social gathering.

  • Outdoor private social gatherings are permitted to a maximum of 200 people, with constant two-metre social distancing expected.

  • Religious places must now limit attendance to one-third fire code capacity, implement social distancing, and enforce mask requirements.

  • There are no attendance restrictions for outdoor events and facilities with no indoor portion (besides washrooms) other than social distancing requirements.

  • All schools (K-12) are now subject to mask mandates for students grades 4 and up, as are all staff and teachers.

  • Schools that can implement an alternate COVID safety plan can be exempted from mandatory masking, though it is unclear what a valid alternative would be.

  • Students will not be forced to wear masks or social distance while engaging in physical or outdoor activities. However, they will still need to social distance during indoor sports.

  • All children’s day camps must enforce two-metre social distancing and masking indoors, as do overnight camps.

The following measures will take effect on September 20:

  • Restaurants with outdoor dining can only have a maximum of six individuals per table (one household or two close contacts for those living alone).

  •  Liquor curfews are staying, with sales ending at 10 p.m. and consumption at bars ending at 11 p.m. and consumption restrictions

  • Restaurants can only avoid these restrictions by implementing the vaccine passport system.

  • For weddings and funerals, all indoor ceremonies and services are limited to 50 attendees or 50 per cent fire code capacity, whichever is less.

  • All indoor wedding and funeral receptions are banned, unless the hosting facility implements the vaccine passport system

  • All outdoor ceremonies and services for weddings and funerals must be limited to 200 attendees. Outdoor receptions must follow liquor sales and consumption restrictions (i.e., sales end at 10 p.m. and consumption ends by 11 p.m.). Businesses can avoid this by implementing the vaccine passport system.

  • For retail, entertainment and recreation facilities (includes any indoor venues, libraries, conferences, rental spaces, concerts, nightclubs, casinos and similar), attendance is limited to one-third fire code capacity, and attendees are only permitted to attend with their household or two close contacts for those living alone. 

  • Attendees to these facilities must be masked and have two-metre social distancing between households.

  • Retail, entertainment, and recreation facilities can avoid these restrictions by implementing the vaccine passport system.

  • For adults looking to use sport, fitness, performance, and recreation facilities, no indoor group classes or activities are permitted unless the facility implements the vaccine passport.

  • The government may also grant some exemptions on a case-by-case basis.

  • There are no restrictions on outdoor activities.

Under the vaccine passport system — which the government is calling the Restrictions Exemption Program — the government is requiring all vaccine-eligible individuals to provide government-issued proof of immunization or a negative privately paid COVID-19 test from within the previous 72 hours to access a variety of participating social, recreational, and discretionary events and businesses throughout the province.

This standard is slightly less authoritarian than Ontario’s vaccine passport system, which does not even recognize negative COVID-19 tests anymore.

Under the vaccine passport systems, all businesses and facilities which choose to implement the system will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test.

Businesses which implement the system will not be subject to restrictions as those who choose not to but are asked to discriminate against the unvaccinated.

Between September 20 and October 25, which is considered a “transitional period,” having only a single dose of vaccine will count as being fully vaccinated.

Documentation of a medical exemption from vaccination will also be accepted instead of proof of vaccination to enter facilities operating under the vaccine passport system.

Those under age 12 do not need to provide proof of vaccination or a negative test.

The vaccine passport system does not apply to businesses or entities that need to be accessed for daily living, such as hospitals, grocery stores, health offices, etc.

Printable vaccine cards will be available on September 19 and can be accessed through MyHealth Records. A QR code will later replace this card.

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