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Premier Dennis King is suggesting some public health requirements for travellers arriving in P.E.I. could be eased this summer if they can show proof of vaccination.
But it remains unclear how public health officials in P.E.I. will be able to verify who has been vaccinated.
King has faced questions from both Opposition Greens and Liberals in recent days about plans to allow some travel from outside the Atlantic Canada region this summer.
As of Wednesday, the province plans to open up to travellers from Atlantic Canada on April 19. Travellers from the region will not be required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in P.E.I.
During Tuesday’s question period, King confirmed that plans are also in the works to allow some travellers from outside the Atlantic region to arrive without self-isolation plans, provided they can prove they are vaccinated.
“If you’re a seasonal resident in Canada who has a seasonal residence here on Prince Edward Island and you have a proof of vaccine, you can come here without needing to isolate,” King said on Tuesday.
“You might need to be tested once as a precautionary measure because even if you’re vaccinated, you still might be a spreader of the virus.”
During Wednesday’s question period, King was asked by interim Liberal Leader Sonny Gallant about how immunization will be verified.
"Is the premier suggesting some sort of COVID passport for people travelling to Prince Edward Island?" Gallant said.
King said “there would be the hope” that summer travellers from outside the Atlantic bubble who have received a vaccine would not have to self-isolate upon arrival. But he did not directly address the question about a vaccine passport for inter-provincial travellers.
Restrictions for international travellers remain in place, including a requirement to isolate, King said.
Last week the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Americans who have been vaccinated could travel between states without having to be tested or isolating. Elsewhere in Europe, the notion of a vaccine passport that would allow international travel has been gaining popularity.
However, Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu has expressed some concern that vaccine passports could create work or travel barriers for individuals who cannot be vaccinated. Civil rights groups have warned that requiring proof of vaccination could allow employers to discriminate against employees who may not have been vaccinated.
In Canada, Ontario is considering granting what it calls digital immunity certificates, while Nova Scotia and British Columbia are considering similar initiatives.
On Wednesday, Green MLA Hannah Bell directed a question to Health Minister Ernie Hudson about the use of the CanImmunize App in Nova Scotia. The app allows for a digital record of immunization for COVID-19.
“This record ensures people know which vaccine they received, reminds them to return for a booster of the same vaccine and it will also help Canadians know if they're eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine as eligibility requirements change,” Bell said.
“Could the minister of health advise when digital vaccination records will be available for Islanders who have been or will be vaccinated?”
Hudson did not directly answer the question about digital vaccination records.
“We will continue to rely on the advice from the experts, such as Dr. Morrison," he said.
A March 22 Ipolitics article stated P.E.I. health officials “either didn’t respond or didn’t answer the question directly” in relation to questions about discussions with the federal government about vaccine passports.
A representative from the B.C. Ministry of Health told Ipolitics that “most” Canadian premiers agreed in late February that it would be “imperative” for travellers to be required to show proof of vaccination.
Update: After this story was published, a representative from the provincial government confirmed that both print and digital records for immunization are available for Islanders once they have been vaccinated. But an emailed statement indicated that negotiations between the provinces and the federal government are still ongoing with regard to a national "digital immunization passport", which would be distinct from P.E.I.'s digital immunization record.