Sask. businesses adapt to proof of COVID-19 vaccination, negative test mandate

As of Friday, a variety of businesses in Saskatchewan now require visitors to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for entry, forcing owners and staff to make some adjustments.

The proof will be required at businesses including indoor restaurants, bars, gyms, bars, event venues, sporting events and more. 

At The Tipsy Samurai restaurant in Regina, owner Tony Yang said preparing his staff has been fairly straight forward.

The restaurant has downloaded the QR code apps created by the Government of Saskatchewan onto their point of sale system and have put up signs to alert customers coming through the doors. 

“Our customers I’ve been chatting with, they’re all accepting and willing to cooperate with us,” Yang said. “I don’t see any difficulty.”

Tipsy Samurai owner Tony Yang has downloaded the government's vaccine verification apps to iPads for staff. (Stefanie Davis/CTV Regina)

From a business standpoint, Yang said this is better than being forced to shut down again due to transmission of the virus.

“I think if we have this policy, it’ll be more safe this way,” Yang said. “This is better than having to add more space distancing or shutting down.”

Orange Theory gym in Regina adapted the proof of vaccination protocol a few days ago, giving staff and members a small adjustment time before the mandate came into effect on Friday.

“It kind of is a small little sacrifice we need to make in order to keep our members, as well as our staff, safe,” Nadine Newton, managing partner of Orange Theory Regina, said. “We actually decided to start doing it a week prior, just to get our staff more comfortable, make sure they’re educated and able to talk to our clients and the sentiment has actually been really positive.”

The gym also downloaded the government app. Newton said it’s been smooth sailing so far.

“Those clients that do choose to not show [their proof of vaccination], we respect that and we respect their personal choice, but at the end of the day we haven’t had any issues dealing with it and overcoming it,” she said. “We are fortunate because we do get to keep our doors open. We do get to provide our service - a service that our members crucially need right now.”

On Thursday, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said this mandate is one way the province hopes to increase the vaccination rates.

He said growing pains are expected as residents and businesses adapt to the new measures.

“There will be a number of weeks where this will ultimately transition into being common place here in Saskatchewan. Not forever, but until most certainly we’re able to find our way into a better place with respect to the hospitalization pressures,” Moe said.

The Saskatchewan NDP said local businesses were not given enough notice about what is included in this new public health order, which was fully released on Thursday.

“It is completely unacceptable that this government is seemingly habitually dropping public health orders the day of, or the day before, they come into effect,” Aleana Young, NDP MLA, said. “[It’s] giving businesses no time plan and forcing them to pivot again and again.”

The provincial government said any businesses that do not comply with the new requirement will be breaking the public health order and it could cost them.

“If it is a business’s intention to permit access to their facility without proof of either vaccination or testing, the business will be in violation of the public health order,” the Ministry of Justice said in a statement. “[The business] could be subject to a Summary Offence Ticket or a more serious charge under The Emergency Planning Act or The Public Health Act.”

The maximum fine a business could receive is $100,000 under either of those acts.