Ontario releases new guidelines for how vaccine passports will work

·5 min read

With just over a week to go before Ontario residents are mandated to show proof-of-vaccination documents at bars, restaurants, gyms, cinemas, nightclubs, and other “high-risk” indoor settings, the province has released guidelines for business owners to follow.

Beginning Sept. 22, patrons will need to show proof of full vaccination and a piece of ID to enter settings that include restaurants, theatres and gyms.

This means patrons will need to carry with them either a printed or digital PDF copy of the receipt for their second shot of a Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccine.

“High rates of vaccination against COVID-19 are critical to helping protect our communities and hospital capacity while keeping Ontario schools and businesses safely open,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “As we continue our last mile push to increase vaccination rates, requiring proof of immunization in select settings will encourage even more Ontarians to receive the vaccine and stop the spread of COVID-19. If you haven’t received your first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, please sign up today.”

Those who can’t provide this specific document from the provincial booking portal will, under the new rules, be refused entry unless they are under 12, have a valid medical exemption, or they’re only coming inside for a few minutes.

However, according to the regulations released by the provincial government last week, people will not need to prove they’re vaccinated to enter eligible settings if they’re just entering a business to use the washroom, to pay for or pick up an order, or to make way through to an outdoor space.

People who are exempt from the vaccine passport include workers, contractors, repair workers, delivery workers, students, volunteers, inspectors or others who are entering the business or organization for work purposes and not as patrons. Children under 12 years of age are also exempt.

Patrons are also exempt from the vaccine passport if they are entering an indoor area solely for the following reasons: to use a washroom, to access an outdoor area that can only be accessed through an indoor route, to make a retail purchase, placing or picking up an order, placing a bet or picking up winnings in the case of a horse racing track, paying for an order, to purchase admission, as may be necessary for the purposes of health and safety.

Exemptions are also given to those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons and for children under 12 years old who are not currently eligible for a vaccine in the province.

Children between ages 12 and 18 will also be allowed to enter indoor sports and recreation facilities without showing proof of vaccination but only “solely to actively participate in an organized sport.”

Proof of vaccination will not be required at essential services, including grocery stores, religious services, pharmacies, and banks.

Elliott says businesses will be required to authenticate patrons’ identification and vaccine certificates and that police officers can assist with enforcement if either businesses or patrons don’t comply.

“If there are any businesses that are concerned, that when they refuse entry to a restaurant or gym or whatever it happens to be that if at any point they feel threatened we want them to call 911 as soon as possible to make sure that our police officers can be there to assist,” said Elliott.

The system will initially require patrons to show a paper or digital receipt of vaccination along with a form of government-issued identification, such as a driver’s licence, birth certificate or health card.

Businesses must ensure the name and date of birth on the vaccination receipt match those on the identification document before allowing customers access to the venue.

There are currently only two valid medical exemptions patrons can use when the vaccine certificates come into effect.

“The first being a severe allergic reaction to any of the components confirmed by an allergist. The second being inflammation to the heart, the sac around the heart called myocarditis or pericarditis,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said.

Individuals with these medical exemptions must show their identification and a written document by a physician or nurse practitioner. The government says an individual’s medical exemption will also be connected to their personal QR code once that comes into effect.

If a patron or physician were to create a fraudulent document, they would be penalized.

“If there is an abuse of this by physicians or nurses of the extended class, there may be professional discipline for them. And if there’s a fraud, there is a process through the Reopening of Ontario Act enforcement that can deal with the fraud aspect,” said Moore.

He added getting fully vaccinated is the most important step you can take to protect yourself and others.

“To provide the best protection to some of our more vulnerable populations, we are offering a third dose to additional groups of immune compromised people who are more likely to have had a less than adequate immune response to the initial two doses COVID-19 vaccine series,” said Moore.

Ontarians will be expected to temporarily use the paper or PDF vaccine receipt that is available online, along with ID, to prove that they have been fully vaccinated until the province releases its QR code system. Acceptable documents to confirm identity include birth certificate, citizenship card, driver’s licence, government issued ID card, health card, Indian status card/Indigenous membership card, passport and permanent resident card.

Ontarians will be provided with a unique QR code that contains information about their vaccination status, and an app will be developed for businesses to read that code. The QR code system is expected to launch on Oct. 22.

Business owners and individuals who do not comply with the rules can face fines of about $750 and $1,000, respectively, for non-compliance under the Reopening Ontario Act.

The province says enforcement officers are starting to visit businesses this week to discuss the system’s requirements, which apply to patrons but not venue workers.

Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News

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