Ontario pauses reopening, outlines vaccine policy for certain workers

Dr. Kieran Moore attends a press briefing at Queens Park in Toronto on Thursday June 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

TORONTO - Ontario will pause all further reopening, start offering third COVID-19 shots to vulnerable populations, and require health and education workers to get vaccinated against the virus or take regular tests.

The province's top doctor announced the new measures Tuesday, along with several others as part of a response to the highly contagious Delta variant that has been driving a recent rise in infections.

The government says it will pause any further lifting of public health restrictions and will remain in Step 3 of its reopening plan, maintaining capacity limits on businesses and other settings.

It also says transplant recipients, patients with certain cancers, and long-term care and retirement home residents will be offered third COVID-19 vaccine doses starting as early as this week.

Meanwhile, employers in health and education will need to have policies that ask staff to disclose their vaccination status and require those who are unvaccinated to take an education session and be subject to regular tests.

The policies stop short of mandating vaccines for workers in frontline, high-risk jobs - something health worker groups and other advocates had been calling for.

As of Wednesday, province is also expanding eligibility for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to children born in 2009, who will turn 12 this year.