Proof of COVID-19 vaccination to be required for all indoor sports in Toronto

A hockey stick and pucks are seen in this file image. (Pexels)

Those lacing up for indoor hockey, taking swimming lessons, or taking part in a range of other indoor sports activities in Toronto will soon have to show proof of vaccination.

On Friday, Toronto's top doctor issued a letter of instruction requiring all people age 12 and older who take part in indoor organized sports to provide proof of vaccination.

All those included under the order will be required to provide identification and proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or a valid medical exemption every time they enter a facility.

“By issuing this Letter of Instruction, Toronto Public Health is taking the necessary steps to ensure the maximum protection for all involved in indoor sport,” Dr. Eileen de Villa said in a statement Friday.

The order includes players, as well as anyone coaching, caregiving, volunteering, or officiating at organized sports.

It includes but is not limited to: sports leagues, organized pick-up sports, dance classes, gymnastics, martial arts and swimming classes.

“Sports activities, by their very nature and particularly while indoors, increase close contact with other participants,” de Villa wrote in the letter. “Heavy breathing without masks may expose individuals to aerosols and droplets, and can result in prolonged exposure in indoor spaces, especially when ventilation is not optimized.”

De Villa said a consistent vaccination policy for sporting events will help reduce transmission of the more infectious Delta variant, which spreads more easily indoors.

“We have seen COVID-19 cases and outbreaks linked to indoor sporting and recreational events,” de Villa said. “With one consistent vaccination policy – in addition to measures of self-protection – we decrease the risk of COVID-19 transmission in these settings and ensure these activities continue in the safest manner possible.”

The order comes into effect in Toronto as of Nov. 1.

York Region’s medical officer of health recently issued a similar order. The move comes as hockey season and a range of other fall and winter indoor recreational activities start to ramp up.

As of Oct. 7, around 86.3 per cent of Toronto residents 12 and older had at least one COVID-19 shot, while 81.6 per cent were fully vaccinated.