QUEEN’S PARK – Beginning September 22 you will have to show proof of vaccination to dine indoors, attend a sporting event, or go to the movies. The Ontario government announced its new Enhanced COVID-19 Vaccine Certificate program September 1.
“Based on the latest evidence and best advice, COVID-19 vaccine certificates give us the best chance to slow the spread of this virus while helping us to avoid further lock-downs,” said Premier Doug Ford during the announcement. “It’s clear the Delta variant is here, and it is a very real threat.”
Ontario joins British Columbia, Manitoba, and Quebec who have already implemented or are implementing a vaccine passport system.
Ford took a swipe at Liberal leader Justin Trudeau over not launching a federal program which he called the best solution that other countries are already using.
Ford said that a national vaccine passport system was “far better than a patchwork of certificates for every single province and territory in the country.”
“Justin Trudeau has told us that they will not be rolling out a national vaccine passport while their election is ongoing. We can’t wait any longer,” he said.
Between September 22 and October 21, people age 12 and older will need their COVID-19 vaccination receipt and a piece of photo identification to enter certain public settings. The government will launch its passport app on October 22, which will tie the vaccination record and id into one QR Code that businesses and venues can scan.
“We need to protect our hospitals. We need to avoid lock-downs at all costs. We want our kids in school and our businesses to stay open,” Ford said.
Ontario’s plan targets what it calls “higher-risk” indoor public settings. These settings are where face coverings cannot always be worn such as when eating and drinking.
The list includes restaurants and bars – excluding outdoor patios, takeout, and delivery; nightclubs; and meeting/event spaces such as banquet halls and conference centres.
Also included are sports and recreation facilities like gyms and fitness clubs but indoor youth recreation sports are exempt from the government requirements.
Sporting events, concerts, theatres and music venues are included as well as casinos, bingo halls and gaming venues.
People entering strip clubs, bathhouses and sex clubs, as well the indoor parts of horse racing tracks, will need to have the vaccine certificate.
Essential retail such as grocery stores and pharmacies, and non-essential retail businesses are not part of this system. However any business can use the government tools to confirm vaccinations if they wish.
Businesses that do not comply with the vaccine passport will face compliance fines.
Not included in the new program are religious settings, barber shops, hair salons, and aesthetics businesses.
The passport system does not apply to employees of any of the listed venues as employers are expected to have processes already in place for their employees.
Un-vaccinated people with medical exemptions, and people under 12 years old can still enter the venues where vaccine status is verified. Adults accompanying people under 12 need to have a vaccine passport.
For people who do not use smartphones or apps, the QR Code can be printed so you will not need to have a smartphone app.
Addressing privacy concerns, the QR code system will not give businesses any personal information, only confirm the vaccine status of the person entering.
Ford said moving to a vaccine certificate or passport system is not something he wanted to do.
“This is a serious step that we’re not taking lightly, and I know this is going to be very difficult for some people,” he explained. “Let me be clear, this is a temporary tool that we won’t use for a day longer than we have to.”