Ontario premier releases statement one day before COVID-19 vaccine certificate is implemented

Ontario’s vaccine certificate system will take effect at midnight, making it mandatory for individuals to present proof of vaccination for access a host of non-essential businesses and settings.

Once the system goes into effect, Ontarians will have to produce photo ID and a copy of the vaccine receipt they received upon getting their second shot for a range of activities, including dining indoors at restaurants and bars and working out at gyms.

But the Ford government has said that they plan to have an app ready by Oct. 22 that will allow businesses to simply scan a QR code to confirm a patron’s eligibility to enter.

In a statement released earlier on Tuesday, Premier Doug Ford acknowledged concerns about civil liberties as the province gets set to implement the system but he said that the “greater concern” remains shutting down businesses amid a “sudden surge” in cases.

“There are a lot of people who are concerned about this policy and I want you to know that I hear you. I understand your concerns about protecting your civil liberties and right to privacy. While many fully vaccinated people like myself share these concerns, the greater concern is having to shut down again or experience a sudden surge in cases like in Alberta and Saskatchewan,” he said. “This pandemic remains an emergency and there are real-world consequences of not acting. We must continue to do everything we can to protect our hard-fought progress so that we can provide businesses the stability they need and deserve.”

Ford and several of his ministers insisted for months that Ontario would not introduce a mandatory vaccination requirement but the government ultimately changed course amid a rapid rise in case counts attributed to the Delta variant.

Ford hasn’t spoken with reporters since attending a news conference to announce the new system three weeks ago but he did attempt to address some concerns in the statement he released on Tuesday morning, ostensibly to congratulate Justin Trudeau on his re-election.

In a separate media availability later on Tuesday, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore also stressed that the vaccine certificate is a “temporary measure” introduced amid “good evidence” that COVID-19 outbreaks are occurring in some indoor settings like nightclubs.

“This I think is a balanced response and it's proportionate to the risk as we head into the fall and the winter,” he said. “It is to protect individuals; it's actually to protect unvaccinated individuals because as they aggregate they're the ones that have the highest risk of getting admitted to hospital.”

MOORE HOPES TO SEE VACCINATION RATES RISE ONCE POLICY IS IN EFFECT

While Ontarians who are 12 plus will have to produce proof if vaccination for access to many settings stating tomorrow, there are a number of exceptions, including to use the washroom at a bar or restaurant or to participate in youth sports.

There will also be no proof of vaccination requirement to dine on patios or shop in retail stores.

Moore said that he is optimistic that the system will convince more people to get vaccinated while helping to keep businesses open amid the fourth wave of the pandemic.

“Looking at the population that has the least protection right now it is the 20 to 39 year old population. They have the highest rate of infection, they have still are getting hospitalized as a result of infection, and a lower rate of immunization. I think that age group that likes to go out, that is naturally social, that takes advantage of bars, restaurants, nightclubs, I think once it clicks in in the coming days that you must be vaccinated to get inside that will change behaviors. That's my hope,” he said. “We certainly want them better protected as we go into the fall and winter and I hope we see a steady rate rise.”

SOME BUSINESSES CONCERNED ABOUT ENFORCEMENT

Some businesses have raised objections over the fact that the onus is being put on them to enforce the new policy, however the idea of requiring that individuals be vaccinated in order to access certain business has received widespread support.

Speaking with CP24 on Tuesday morning, Toronto Mayor John Tory said that he believes that those who are opposed to the system are largely people who have some sort of “ideological” opposition to vaccination and who refuse to roll up their sleeves even though that decision is placing them at an increased risk of ending up in hospital or dying as a result of COVID-19.

“You know, they hate themselves to be frank,” he said. “There's nothing ideological about this. It is simply a practical means of making sure we keep people safe.”

A number of other provinces have already rolled out vaccine certificate systems, including Quebec.