No Covid vaccine, no restaurant, New Yorkers told

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People queue at a popup COVID-19 testing site in Times Square (REUTERS)
People queue at a popup COVID-19 testing site in Times Square (REUTERS)

New Yorkers will need to provide proof they have had at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine if they are to eat out at restaurants, go to a theatre or work out at the gym, Mayor Bill de Blasio has insisted.

De Blasio said he was confident the move, the first of its kind in a big city in the US, would “turn the tide” against the virus as the Delta variant sweeps across the country.

“If you want to participate in our society fully, you’ve got to get vaccinated,” New York’s mayor, told a news conference on Tuesday.

“It’s time. This is going to be a requirement. The only way to patronise these establishments is if you are vaccinated, at least one dose. The same for folks in terms of work, they will need at least one dose,” he said, holding up a single finger.

About 66 per cent of all New Yorkers are currently fully vaccinated, according to city data but the rate is lower in poorer communities.

In the US as a whole, 70 per cent of adults have had one jab to combat the virus that has killed over 600,000 in the country.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (AP)
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (AP)

New York City’s policy will be enforced from September 13 but like mask-wearing and stay-at-home orders, the plan will likely be met with huge protests.

During a Tuesday news conference, President Joe Biden said he supported New York City’s move and said other cities need to give “the authority to those restaurants or businesses to say: ‘In order to come in, you have to give proof that you’re either vaccinated or you can’t come in.’”

De Blasio has focused on getting as many New Yorkers vaccinated as possible while resisting calls to mandate masks indoors, as several cities in California have done.

He said vaccination cards will be accepted as proof of inoculation, along with state and city apps.

Asked Tuesday about a mask mandate, de Blasio said all options were on the table but reiterated the city’s policy is “vaccine-centric.”

“Right now what we want to nail is people getting vaccinated, and, very bluntly, showing that life is much better when you’re vaccinated,” he added.

“You have more freedom when you’re vaccinated, and you have a lot less, you have fewer choices, fewer opportunities if you’re not vaccinated.”

Businesses expressed concerns that checking vaccination status would be too time-consuming but the Mayor insisted it shouldn’t be too difficult for businesses, which already have to take tickets or show diners to a table.

A customer at New York’s Woodside Cafe Debbie McCarthy, who is unvaccinated, said she was turned away over the weekend from several establishments that had already begun requiring proof of vaccinations from patrons.

“I’m a little shocked they would do that,” said McCarthy, who said she recovered from Covid-19 a few months ago and believes her natural antibodies will protect from future infections. “Why are they so afraid of people who haven’t been vaccinated? I think we should have a choice.”

Fitness studio owner Bill Zanker, who operates fully vaccinated classes without masks, said he supports the policy even though it comes as another hurdle after a long coronavirus shutdown.

“We’ve got to encourage people to get vaccinated. ... We’re happy to enforce that,” said Zanker. “Unfortunately, it will affect the business again.”

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