Citing the recent practices and policies of many other provinces and jurisdictions, the Ontario government will roll out a COVID-19 “enhanced vaccine certificate and verification app,” the province announced on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021.
The announcement also included a new requirement that people be fully vaccinated and provide proof of such in order to access “certain businesses and settings.” These new policies will take effect on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, Premier Doug Ford said in the announcement, alongside Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.
Ford began the announcement by expressing a need for Ontario to fight off the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in terms of the spread of the Delta variant. Ford expressed that he understood this decision would be difficult for many Ontarians, however, after pressuring the federal government to develop a national vaccine passport for “the past three months,” Ford said “we cannot wait any longer.”
“We must take immediate action. And we will, because we need to protect our hospitals. We need to avoid lockdowns, at all costs. We want our kids in school, and our businesses to stay open. And let’s be clear, the Delta variant is here, and it’s very, very real threat, particularly to those who remain unvaccinated,” Ford said.
“We know that if you’re unvaccinated, you’re 27 times more likely to end up in the hospital if you get COVID, and 42 times more likely to end up in critical care. Folks, please. The facts are clear. The vaccine is the best tool we have to keep people safe.”
After “in-depth discussions with medical experts,” Ford said the Ontario government has “landed on a vaccine certificate policy that is based on evidence and best advice.
According to the Ontario government, as of September 22, 2021, Ontarians will need to be fully vaccinated (two doses plus 14 days) and provide their proof of vaccination, along with photo ID, to access certain public settings and facilities – higher-risk indoor public settings where face coverings cannot always be worn. These include:
- Restaurants and bars (excluding outdoor patios, as well as delivery and takeout);
- Nightclubs (including outdoor areas of the establishment);
- Meeting and event spaces, such as banquet halls and conference/convention centres;
- Facilities used for sports and fitness activities and personal fitness training, such as gyms, fitness and recreational facilities with the exception of youth recreational sport;
- Sporting events;
- Casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments;
- Concerts, music festivals, theatres and cinemas;
- Strip clubs, bathhouses and sex clubs;
- Racing venues (e.g., horse racing).
The mandatory vaccination requirements will not apply to outdoor settings, including patios, but will include outdoor nightclub spaces “given the risk associated with the setting.” Those with medical exemption “will be permitted entry with a doctor’s note until recognized medical exemptions can be integrated as part of a digital vaccine certificate. Children who are 11 years of age and younger and unable to be vaccinated will also be exempted from these requirements,” the government said in a press release.
Additionally, these requirements will not apply to settings where people receive medical care, access food from grocery stores, access medical supplies and prescriptions, “and the like.”
“Aligned with public health measures currently in place, indoor masking policies will continue to remain in place,” the Ontario government said.
Currently, Ontarians can access to a paper or PDF vaccine receipt that includes all relevant information to prove that they are fully vaccinated, and, as of September 22, they will be required to show their vaccine receipt when entering designated settings along with another piece of photo identification. As the program moves forward, the province will also introduce “an enhanced digital vaccine receipt that features a QR code, which is safe, more secure and with you wherever you go. This digital vaccine receipt can be kept on a phone and easily used to show that you’ve been vaccinated if you need to. In addition, the province will launch a new app to make it easier and more convenient for businesses and organizations to read and verify that a digital vaccine receipt is valid, while protecting your privacy,” according to the Government of Ontario.
“We’ve been able to slow the growth of the virus, but it is critical that we continue to respond with assertive action to protect Ontarians from serious illness, hospitalization, and sadly, death. We need to be proactive to avoid reactive closures, and that means looking at best evidence and practice,” said Dr. Moore, noting that he hopes the vaccine certificate policy will lead to an increase in Ontarians being vaccinated.
“A proof of vaccination policy will help to encourage every eligible area to get their shot to keep Ontario open. Immunization is key to protecting ourselves, our loved ones and our most.”
A full new release from the Government of Ontario can be read here.