Ontario releases new details on how people will prove their COVID-19 vaccine status starting Sept. 22
TORONTO -- Ontario has released further guidance for businesses one week before COVID-19 vaccines become mandatory to enter some non-essential establishments.
Starting on Sept. 22, proof of vaccination status will be required to eat indoors at restaurants and bars, to enter a gym, movie theatre, sporting venue or concert, and to use a large meeting and event space.
Ontario residents will need to either print or download their second dose receipt from the government website until an “enhanced” certificate becomes available on Oct. 22.
They can also use a receipt signed by an Indigenous health provider or a receipt from “another jurisdiction.”
The new rules will not impact children under the age of 12 who are not yet eligible for the vaccine.
In order to enter a vaccine-mandated business, patrons will have to provide proof of their status and provide identification at the door.
Employees are being asked to match the name and date of birth listed on the vaccination receipt with the information on the ID. The receipt must be for the individual’s second dose, and employees should verify that the date of administration was at least 14 days prior.
Examples of identification documents that can be used to confirm vaccine status include a birth certificate, a citizenship card, a drivers licence, a government issued identification card, including a health card, an Indian Status Card or Indigenous Membership Card, a passport or a permanent resident card.
A photo is not required.
“The patron seeking entry is solely responsible for demonstrating that they are the legitimate holder of the receipt,” officials warned in a presentation on Tuesday.
Non-compliance by individuals or businesses may result in fines under the Reopening Ontario Act.
The province said it has decided to take a “measured approach” to enforcement of the vaccine mandate, saying that they hope to balance public safety and the risk to businesses. Officers will start with education and warnings to ensure a business is following the proper protocols.
The government has also said that in the event of harassment or threats of violence, law enforcement should be contacted.
Kaleed Rasheed, Associate Minister of Digital Government, said Tuesday the province was “on track” to deliver an “enhanced” certificate program by Oct. 22. Ontario residents will be given a QR code with their vaccination information and businesses will use an app to scan them.
“Our made-in-Ontario app will make it quicker and easier for businesses to confirm that a person's vaccine certificate is valid," Rasheed said while clarifying that patrons will have a choice to download the QR code or use their printed receipt.
Speaking on background on Tuesday morning, officials said the province has a working prototype of an app that businesses will be able to use to scan a QR code proving a patrons vaccination status.
The app is being developed in-house, the province said.
EXEMPTIONS TO VACCINE CERTIFICATE
The government also released a more comprehensive list of exemptions for the vaccine certificate program.
Proof of vaccination will not be required if someone is simply paying for an order or using a washroom of an indoor establishment where vaccination is mandatory.
While those wanting to be an indoor spectator at a horse racing track will be required to be fully vaccinated, individuals do not need two doses to place or pick up their winnings.
Customers will also not need to be fully vaccinated to make a retail purchase.
While indoor sport spectators need to provide proof of vaccination, those “actively participating in an organised sport” do not.
The province is also distinguishing between attending a wedding or funeral ceremony, in which proof of vaccination is not necessary, and the associated social gathering, where guests must be fully vaccinated.
Regular exemptions also apply for those with written notification from a health practitioner stating that they have a medical reason for not getting the shot.
ONTARIO IN ‘LAST MILE’ OF VACCINE ROLLOUT
Officials said that Ontario is now in “the last mile” of its vaccine rollout. In order to reach the coveted 90 per cent coverage rate—which doctors have said is necessary to curb the spread of the Delta variant—1.5 million people will need to be fully vaccinated.
As of Tuesday, 84.5 per cent of eligible Ontarians aged 12 and up have received at least one dose of a COVID-19, while about 78.2 per cent are considered fully vaccinated with two shots.
The province has said that their “last mile” strategy is to target populations with low vaccination rates. This includes more than 550 school-based clinics that are “planned or operational” and the use of the GO-VAXX bus, which has been travelling to community hubs, sporting events, malls, fairs, markets and post-secondary institutions.
Ontario’s two COVID-19 phone lines—the one to book a vaccine and the one to ask questions about the shot—are also merging.
The new Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre (1-833-943-3600) will be operational between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. seven days a week.
A new service is also being launched in the coming weeks in partnership with the Hospital for Sick Kids offering by-appointment consultations for youth and their families.
Additional groups have been added to the eligibility list for a third booster of COVID-19 vaccine.
Ontario began offering third doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to individuals most at risk of serious illness in mid August. At the time, the following people could get a third shot: transplant recipients, patients with hematological cancers, recipients of an anti-CD20 agent and residents of high-risk settings such as long-term care homes, retirement homes and First Nations elder care lodges.
On Tuesday, the province expanded that list, adding the following groups:
- Those undergoing active treatment for solid tumors and hematologic malignancies
- Those who are in receipt of a solid-organ transplant and taking immunosuppressive therapy
- Those who are in receipt of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T-cell or hematopoietic stem cell transplants
- Those with moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency
- Stage 3 or advanced untreated HIV infection and those with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome
- Those undergoing active treatment with the following therapies: high-dose systematic corticosteroids, alkylating agents, antimetabolites, tumor-necrosis blockers and anti-B cell therapies
Officials say that more than 30,000 third doses have been administered in Ontario.