• Businesses will face challenges with N.L.'s vaccination passport, owners say

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    Newfoundland and Labrador's COVID-19 vaccination passport is now officially available, but problems with connection and logistics for businesses mean not everyone is connecting right away.

    Some users have reported being unable to access the provincial government's online vaccination records portal, which is down due to extremely high traffic but will be back online "shortly," according to the provincial government's website.

    About 40,000 passports had been issued as of 9 a.m. NT before the crash, about 600 per minute, according to a media release from the Department of Health.

    The passport launched in the form of two apps, NLVaxPass and NLVaxVerify. The apps store a person's vaccination records in the form of a QR code that can also be printed.

    The app does not store other personal health information.

    In order to create the QR code, residents of the province need to link the app to their vaccination record, which can be obtained through the online portal. That code can be shown as proof of COVID-19 vaccination required to access many different businesses and community spaces for those 12 and up.

    Although the passport launched Friday, it will not be in use until Oct. 22.
    A high traffic of users caused the province's vaccination records portal to crash Friday. The portal remained offline as 2 p.m. NT. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

    As the date approaches, some businesses in central Newfoundland say they're still looking for answers on how it will work day to day.

    "I'm going to add another cellphone or mobile device to our plan and have it on the site to scan the codes," said Steve Bishop, owner of the Gander Breadbox Cafe.

    "I'm not already set up with a host or hostess at the front door. And a lot of people come in just to pick up bread, cookies and leave.… Dining customers will obviously have to provide a vaccine passport. But I don't think for us in particular, it'll be as labour-intensive as originally thought it would be."

    Bishop said many of his customers are on board with the passport, but it will likely take time to see how the system develops and how customers react to the changes. 

    Hannah de Young, chair of the Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce, asked customers to be kind through the latest adaptation for businesses.

    "The last year and a half has been really tough and they've had to, you know, reduce capacity, change capacity. And it's been hard," she said.

    "We would ask all people to be kind when you come across that employee who's standing at the door doing the best they can, especially as we get used to this over the next few weeks."

    'My hands are tied'
    However, not all businesses see the implementation of the vaccination passport in the same light."I think this is the breaking point for a lot of us, because it's just one more thing that we're expected to pay for. It's one more thing we're expected to do," said Nicole Keats, owner of the Newfoundland Tea Company. "We've taken great care to make sure our customers are safe and healthy and that they can eat here and not worry that they're going to catch a virus. You know, it's just one more thing."

    While Keats says she supports the idea of getting vaccinated and taking steps to contain the spread of COVID-19, she says the work shouldn't have to fall on businesses, which are already facing logistical challenges."

    "I can't afford to hire for it.… My hands are tied," she said. "They're making it so impossibly hard to do business in this province."

    Christina Dunphy, owner of Friend's Lounge in Gander, said she's also feeling the pinch from the government.

    With three different entrances to her pub, she said, manning all three doors, especially during the weekends in a small community, will be challenging.

    "I feel like you're putting me in a bit of a situation with not only my business, but on a personal relationship with people that I've known my whole life.… It's going to put me in a very hard situation," she said.

    CBC News