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Service industry workers in Canada say they’re bearing the brunt of anger, frustration and general confusion from clients over new vaccine mandates that they had nothing to do with creating, but are now responsible for enforcing.
At the entrance to Wienstein & Gavino’s, an Italian restaurant in downtown Montreal, hostess Abigail Trevino is standing at the ready to greet clients and ask them for their proof of vaccination.
“I try to defuse the situation usually with a joke, saying that I feel more like a bouncer than a hostess these days,” said Trevino. “Usually people laugh at that and it’s enough to break the tension.”
For the most part, she said, people have been understanding of Quebec’s vaccine passport system, which came into effect on Sept. 1. Occasionally she’s had customers who were annoyed or frustrated, but no one who was outright aggressive.
“I had someone get quite visibly annoyed with me, but he did actually come back and apologize afterwards and say, ‘I realize that you don’t make the rules; I’m sorry I lost my temper.'”
‘Doubled the workload’
The challenge, more than anything, has been the extra work. “It’s basically doubled the workload,” Trevino said.
From troubleshooting technical issues with smartphone QR codes and apps, to answering phone calls from people asking what kind of proof is accepted, Trevino said her responsibilities as a hostess have suddenly expanded.
While she agrees with the vaccine passport in principle, she’d like to see more recognition from the government about the added burden it places on businesses and their employees, when they’re already dealing with staff shortages.
“We’re doing a lot of extra work for no extra money, and it eats into the time it takes to seat people. It slows everything down,” said Trevino.
“It would be nice if people could be a little bit nicer to restaurant workers, because I understand that it’s frustrating for people to have to pull out their ID and they’re not always expecting it.… [But] if people could just be patient and understanding, and realize that we don’t make the rules.”
Across the border in Ontario, people have had less time to get used to vaccine certificate requirements, which came into effect on Wednesday.
The rules apply to venues including indoor areas at restaurants and bars, gyms and recreational facilities, and entertainment venues.
The Hearty Hooligan, a vegan restaurant in Hamilton, warned customers of the changes last week through a post on its Instagram account.
“Providing proof of vaccination when you are looking to dine in is the law,” the post states. “Front-line workers have taken a lot of abuse throughout this pandemic and we will not tolerate any harassment over these policies.”
But in response to that, head chef Matthew Miles said they’ve faced an onslaught of angry comments from people accusing them of everything from discrimination to supporting tyranny.
When the mask mandate first came into effect, Miles said they had customers enter the restaurant without masks, arguing about their rights. They’re bracing for more of that type of attitude.
To help protect staff, the restaurant installed a bell near the front till that rings directly to the kitchen, so that employees can call for extra help if there’s a conflict.
“Our issue right now is mainly the safety of our front-line staff. We want them to feel supported and we want them to feel safe in their workspace,” Miles said.
Inspections and fines
In response to those concerns, a spokesperson for the Ontario health minister said bylaw officers are responsible for enforcing the new requirements and inspectors will be visiting establishments to offer help and support to staff.
Workers in Ontario are being asked to call 911 if they feel threatened for denying entry to someone who refuses to comply.
In Quebec, people who try to get into places requiring a vaccination passport without one risk receiving fines ranging from $1,000 to $6,000. Businesses that don’t enforce vaccine passport rules can also face fines between $1,000 to $6,000.
Alberta’s new proof-of-vaccination program is not mandatory, but some of the businesses that have chosen to adopt it say they’re ready to call police if people refuse to co-operate.
Outside the restaurant and bar industry, workers in a range of sectors are now adding enforcement of public health restrictions to their list of tasks.
Nadia Ali, a 19-year-old Carleton University student who works part time as a lifeguard, recently learned she would have to screen swimmers for proof of vaccination.
The pool where she works is in an Ottawa condo building, and Ali said some residents have been angry about the changes.
“One lady came in and she told me this was unjust and discrimination, and that she wouldn’t be coming here again,” Ali said. “I just told her, ‘I’m sorry but I just enforce the rules, I didn’t make them.'”
Her management has been supportive, she said, and if a resident was ever aggressive, she would ask for help from the front desk. So far, it hasn’t come to that.
More than anything, Ali said, it’s a lot of hassle and extra work. She hopes the process will get smoother with time.
It all comes down to employees being put in an unfair position that they never signed up for, according to Toronto-based employment lawyer Muneeza Sheikh.
“What we are doing, essentially, is we’re placing employees in a combative scenario when that isn’t part of their job duty,” she said.
Sheikh said some of her clients have hired new staff altogether — if they can afford it — to enforce vaccine mandates. But for establishments that don’t have or can’t afford security, she said the vaccine requirements put them in a difficult position.
“There are Canadian employees who have a significant amount of anxiety around going to work now around this vaccination passport and how it’s going to be implemented,” she said.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Wednesday – CBC.ca
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, and said Americans can choose a shot that is different than their original inoculation.
The decision paves the way for millions more people in the United States to get the additional protection with the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus causing breakthrough infections among some who are fully vaccinated.
The agency previously authorized boosters of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least six months after the first round of shots to increase protection for people aged 65 and older, those at risk of severe disease and those who are exposed to the virus through their work.
Last week, an advisory panel to the FDA voted to recommend a third round of shots of the Moderna vaccine for the same groups.
The panel also recommended a second shot of the J&J vaccine for all recipients of the one-dose inoculation at least two months after receiving their first.
The FDA and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were under some pressure to authorize the additional shots after the White House announced plans in August for a widespread booster campaign.
The advisory panel meeting included a presentation of data on mixing vaccines from a U.S. National Institutes of Health study in which 458 participants received some combination of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and J&J shots.
The data showed that people who initially got J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine had a stronger immune response when boosted with either the Pfizer or Moderna shot, and that “mixing and matching” booster shots of different types was safe in adults.
Many countries including Canada and the U.K. have backed mix-and-match strategies for the widely-used AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, which is not authorized in the United States but is based on similar viral vector technology as J&J’s vaccine.
Reuters reported in June that infectious disease experts were weighing the need for booster shots of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine after the J&J shot.
A CDC advisory committee on Thursday will make its recommendations about which groups of people should get the Moderna and J&J boosters, which the agency’s director will use to inform her final decision.
About 11.2 million people have so far received a booster dose, according to data from the CDC.
What’s happening in Canada
- Pandemic restriction opponents line up behind Manitoba PC leadership hopeful.
- Some unvaccinated municipal workers in northeastern Ontario sent home.
- N.L. sees 9 cases as officials make tweaks to fix vaccine passport issues.
What’s happening around the world
As of Wednesday, more than 241.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, according to the latest figures posted by Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.9 million, according to the U.S-based university’s coronavirus tracker.
In Europe, Russia will shut workplaces for a week, Latvia went back into lockdown for a month and Romanian funeral homes are running out of coffins, as vaccine-skeptic ex-communist countries face record highs of infections and deaths.
In Africa, Kenya lifted a nationwide curfew on Wednesday that has been in place since March 2020 to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
In the Americas, 41 per cent of people across Latin America and the Caribbean have now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the Pan American Health Organization said.
In Asia, China reported a fourth day of new, locally transmitted cases in a handful of cities across the country, spurring local governments to double down on efforts to track potential carriers amid the zero-tolerance policy.
N.Korea says U.S. overreacting over submarine missile test
This week’s test of a new ballistic missile from a submarine was part of North Korea’s mid- and long-term plan to bolster self defense and was and not aimed at the United States or any other country, an unnamed spokesperson at Pyongyang’s foreign ministry said, according to the official KCNA news agency.
Washington had taken “overly provocative moves” by calling the test a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions and a threat to regional peace and stability, the spokesperson said.
The Security Council met on Wednesday over the launch at the request of the United States and Britain, and the U.S. envoy urged Pyongyang to accept offers of talks, reiterating that Washington has no hostile intent toward it.
The foreign ministry spokesperson said the United States’ “double standards” over missile development cast doubt over its overtures.
“It is a clear double standard that the United States denounces us for developing and testing the same weapons system it already has or was developing, and that only adds suspicions to their sincerity after saying they have no hostility towards us,” the spokesperson said in a statement carried by KCNA.
The United States and the council could face “more grave and serious consequences” if they opted for wrong behaviour, the spokesperson said, warning against “fiddling with a time bomb.”
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; editing by Richard Pullin)
Britain in talks to sell missiles in arms deal with Ukraine -The Times
The UK government is in talks with Ukraine to sell it missiles for the first time in an arms deal, the Times reported on Wednesday.
Under the plans, the Ministry of Defence would provide surface-to surface and air-to-surface missiles to Ukraine, the newspaper added.
(Reporting by Nishit Jogi in Bengaluru; Editing by Leslie Adler)
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