Manitobans who have received both their COVID-19 doses are now eligible to apply for an immunization card that would allow them to skip the quarantine process upon returning from domestic travel within Canada.
Premier Brian Pallister made the announcement on Tuesday morning, saying anyone hitting the two-week mark after their second vaccine dose can now apply.
The cards come in digital and physical forms, containing a QR code that when scanned shows proof of vaccination. Once someone applies for a physical card, they automatically get a digital copy that can be used immediately.
In physical form, the cards resemble the size and material used for Manitoba driver’s licences. They contain no personal health information other than a person’s first and last name.
Manitobans re-entering the country after travelling abroad are still subject to federal quarantine rules.
Children under the age of 12 are exempt from having to self-isolate after domestic travel if their parents have received two vaccine doses.
Explaining the rationale behind the decision, Pallister said that research has shown there are thousands of Manitobans who are interested in getting vaccinated but need encouragement to roll up their sleeves.
"Manitobans have also told us that getting back to the things they love is one of the biggest incentives to getting vaccinated," Pallister said.
The exemption to the quarantine measure won’t be the only benefit granted by the card. If you have a card and are identified as a close contact of someone with COVID-19, you will likely not have to self-isolate.
A spokesperson for Manitoba Health informed the Sun via email on Tuesday afternoon that the conditions for being exempt from having to isolate after receiving both vaccine doses are that you have no symptoms, you are 14 or more days since your second dose, you do not live in a health-care or congregate setting and you do not have a medical condition that could compromise vaccine effectiveness.
Finally, those with vaccination cards will be allowed to visit friends and family members in Manitoba’s health-care facilities and personal care homes.
The premier said that as time goes on, further privileges may be added to cardholders as recommended by public health officials.
"We hope this is a temporary measure, of course, until we get to the point where everybody is vaccinated and we don’t need to worry about this," the premier said, holding up a sample card.
"But in the interim period, this is an important additional thing that’ll benefit you."
Asked if consideration has been given to allowing visitors to Manitoba from other provinces who can provide proof of having received two vaccine doses, Pallister said that a plan like that would require a larger discussion and agreement between the country’s premiers.
Pallister also took the time to re-emphasize that getting vaccinated is the quickest way out of the pandemic, to return to normal life and to support small businesses struggling because of the virus.
He said he would have more to say on Manitoba’s reopening strategy later this week and that chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin would provide an update on public health orders today.
However, Pallister warned that despite falling case numbers, Manitoba is still North America’s biggest COVID-19 hot spot and an abundance of caution would be needed when making changes.
Applications for the vaccination cards can be filled out online at immunizationcard.manitoba.ca.
Those without internet access can apply by calling the insured benefits branch of Manitoba Health and Seniors Care by calling 204-786-7101 or toll-free at 1-800-392-1207.
The province asks that people ask their friends and family for assistance making the application before calling Manitoba Health.
It should take up to 14 days for a card to arrive after being ordered.
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