Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says COVID-19 vaccine bookings have nearly tripled in the province since he announced a passport system.
Kenney said in a Facebook live video that nearly 25,000 vaccine appointments were recorded by Thursday evening — a jump of about 166 per cent from two days prior.
The province’s proof of vaccination system, also referred to as the “restrictions exemption program,” allows businesses and venues to operate without capacity limits and other measures if they require proof of vaccination or a negative test result before entry.
“This is a crisis of the unvaccinated. That is not to stigmatize people but to point out that individual choices have broader social consequences,” said Kenney in the video.
“If you choose not to become vaccinated, you are taking the risk of higher level of transmission to people, including the vulnerable, but also a much, much higher risk of hospitalization.”
The passport program starts Monday and it is not mandatory.
Kenney previously opposed a vaccine passport primarily due to privacy concerns, but said it has become a necessary measure to protect Alberta’s overwhelmed health-care system.
Almost 80 per cent of eligible Albertans have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, with almost 72 per cent fully immunized with two doses.
Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley is calling on Kenney’s United Conservative government to do more to support small business owners who are putting the passport program in place.
“Businesses have endured through so much during this pandemic. Their bottom lines have been hammered,” said Notley.
“There is absolutely no reason for the UCP to stall or refuse to provide them funding and enforcement support right now, especially if they are genuine in their push for a vaccine passport system that keeps Albertans safe.”
The NDP is pressing the government to reintroduce a grant to support the hiring of additional staff and pass a ministerial order to allow peace and bylaw officers to enforce the changes, with a fine of up to $3,600 for people who don’t comply.
—The Canadian Press