Province reveals new details on vaccine passport system as Ontario reports 577 new COVID-19 cases

·6 min read
Ontario reported 577 new cases on Tuesday, 452 of which are among individuals who have either not been fully vaccinated or whose vaccination status is unknown.  (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
Ontario reported 577 new cases on Tuesday, 452 of which are among individuals who have either not been fully vaccinated or whose vaccination status is unknown. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

Ontario officials have released more guidance on the implementation of the province's proof-of-vaccination system, which comes into effect on Sept. 22.

The vaccine certificate system will cover "higher-risk" indoor spaces where masks can't be worn at all times, officials say. The province has amended its list to apply to the following settings:

  • Restaurants and bars (excluding outdoor patios, delivery and takeout).

  • Nightclubs, including outdoor areas.

  • Meeting and event spaces like banquet halls and convention centres.

  • Sports and fitness facilities and gyms, with the exception of youth recreational sports.

  • Sporting events.

  • Casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments.

  • Concerts, music festivals, theatres and cinemas.

  • Strip clubs, bath houses and sex clubs.

  • Racing venues.

  • Indoor areas of waterparks.

  • Areas of commercial TV, where studio audiences will be treated as patrons who have to be fully vaccinated.

Businesses and organizations that fall under the list above will be required to cross-reference vaccination receipts with identification (including options like a driver's licence, birth certificate or passport), and make sure the receipt shows any patron has been fully vaccinated for 14 days.

The government says provincial offences officers will be visiting businesses and organizations starting this week to raise awareness and understanding of the new requirements.

WATCH | New portions of province's proof-of-vaccine system explained:

Officials also say that if individuals or businesses don't comply, they could be charged or fined.

Regarding enforcement of the vaccine certificates, Health Minister Christine Elliott said at a press conference Tuesday that the solicitor general has been in contact with police forces across the province, but it's "up to each police force to ready themselves accordingly."

Some exemptions exist

But officials say exemptions will be made in certain circumstances, including:

  • When a patron enters an indoor area solely to use a washroom, pay for an order or access an outdoor area that can only be accessed through an indoor route.

  • When a patron enters an indoor area to place or pick up an order (including placing a bet or picking up winnings at a horse racing track), to purchase admission, to make a retail purchase, and for the "necessary purposes of health and safety."

  • Children under 12 years old.

  • Patrons under 18 years old who are entering the indoor premises of a recreational facility solely for the purpose of actively participating in an organized sport.

  • Weddings, funerals, rites or ceremonies, when the patron is not attending the associated social gathering (for example, the reception after a wedding ceremony).

  • Patrons with a written document from a physician or a nurse practitioner stating they are exempt for medical reasons.

When asked Tuesday about allowing unvaccinated patrons at a restaurant to enter an indoor space while paying a bill or going to the washroom, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said that circumstance is still not considered a high-risk contact.

The rules assume unvaccinated patrons will be masked and it'll be 15 minutes or less spent indoors, he added.

Patrons must have vaccination receipt before Oct. 22

At first, fully vaccinated Ontarians will need their current vaccination receipt with a valid photo identification to enter places covered under the new system.

Those with a green photo OHIP card print or download their receipts from the provincial government website. Those with a red and white health card, meanwhile, can call the Provincial Vaccine Booking Line at 1-833-943-3900.

People who received their first or second dose out of province are being asked to contact their local public health unit to receive proper documentation.

Matt Rourke/The Associated Press
Matt Rourke/The Associated Press

The province says guidance for businesses will be updated before Oct. 22, when Ontario will shift to certificates that include QR codes containing much of the same information included on current vaccination receipts. Official medical exemptions for the vaccine will also be embedded in the QR code, Associate Minister of Digital Government Kaleed Rasheed said.

"If someone doesn't want to use the QR code, then the ministry of health will look into issuing an exemption certificate, he said.

People can continue to use the print version after Oct. 22 if they so choose, he added. Businesses will be able to download a free app to scan and verify QR codes after that date.

"It will make it easier, more secure, and convenient to show you have been vaccinated when you need to," he said.

"Your information will never be stored on our app, it will only show the minimum of information needed to confirm an individual has been fully vaccinated."

Bylaw enforcement officers will be monitoring to make sure businesses conform to requirements, Elliott said.

Anyone at a business who is concerned about feeling threatened over entry should call 911, she added.

"We want to make sure everyone conforms to these rules, but if anyone feels threatened we have the facilities available for people to seek help," Elliott said.

"I don't anticipate demand will be huge, we're asking people to be reasonable, we've let people know what the requirements are," she said.

Rocco Rossi, the president and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, said the business community has some unanswered questions regarding workplace guidance and protection of businesses.

"While we welcome further guidance provided by the province on its proof-of-vaccination framework, there are still outstanding concerns left unaddressed around workplace guidance and business protection," Rossi said in a statement.

The chamber is specifically asking for clarity around immunization of employees, protection for businesses from potential lawsuits and other legal consequences, and if small businesses will receive supports to hire additional staff to implement the new framework.

Third doses for certain groups

Meanwhile, the province says it's moving forward with offering third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to certain groups, following recommendations made by Canada's national advisory body last week.

To date, the province says it has administered more than 30,000 third doses.

Groups that will be offered a third vaccine include people undergoing active treatment for solid tumours and those who are in receipt of a solid-organ transplant and taking immunosuppressive therapy.

A full list can be found on the government's website.

Ontario also reported 577 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and seven more deaths.

Of the new cases, 452 are among individuals who have either not been fully vaccinated or whose vaccination status is unknown.

Here are some other key pandemic indicators and figures from the Ministry of Health's daily provincial update:

Tests completed: 21,133.

Provincewide test positivity rate: 2.3 per cent.

Active cases: 6,103.

Patients in ICU with COVID-related illnesses: 192, with 119 needing a ventilator to breathe.

Deaths: seven, pushing the official toll to 9,624.

Vaccinations: 28,657 vaccine doses were administered in Ontario yesterday — nearly double Sunday's total. More than 84 per cent of Ontarians eligible for a vaccine have now received one dose, while more than 78 per cent have received two doses.

Ontario: New daily cases of COVID-19

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