Simcoe Muskoka residents to require vaccination proof under Ontario's plan

Simcoe Muskoka residents will require proof of vaccination status starting Sept. 22 to access certain public settings and facilities as the Ontario government imposes the COVID-19 vaccine certificate.

"The vaccine is the best tool we have to keep people safe," Premier Doug Ford said during a live conference on Wednesday.

Residents will need to provide vaccination proof and photo identification to enter restaurants, bars, nightclubs, event spaces and banquet halls, fitness and recreational facilities, sporting events, casinos, bingo halls, concerts and racing venues.

"Enforcement will be led by bylaw officers," Ford said.

Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit's medical officer of health reacted to the announcement, saying the certificate would lead to a "safer community" amid the fourth wave.

Dr. Charles Gardner called the vaccination certificate a "very important and commendable advancement on the part of the provincial government."

In the last 24 hours, the health unit logged 50 new COVID-19 cases, including 12 hospitalizations.

Of the new cases, the health unit said nine people are fully vaccinated, three are partially, and 38 are unvaccinated.

WHERE RESIDENTS WON'T NEED VACCINE CERTIFICATE

Ontario's health minister assured that no one would be denied access to medical care, food from grocery stores, or basic essentials.

The province said the requirements don't apply to outdoor settings where the risk of spreading the virus is low, including outdoor patios.

Additionally, the province said the vaccine certificate wouldn't be required for retail shopping, salons, banks, places of worship, and take-out or delivery of food services.

LOCAL REACTION FROM BUSINESS OWNERS

Simcoe Muskoka's top doctor said he would support the vaccine certificate being in place for the entirety of the fourth wave, adding, "that could very well be for many weeks."

Justin Kim, a gym owner in Barrie, said he has mixed feelings about the announcement.

"On the one hand, I believe it may be a pathway to allow gyms to remain open through this fourth wave. But on the other hand, I think people who have made the decision not to be vaccinated are being deprived of their best defence against COVID, which is physical fitness and good metabolic health," said Kim, owner of The Movement Headquarters Inc.

Ford suggested it would be each business' responsibility to check customer's proof of vaccination. "We will rely on people and businesses to do the right thing." 

Enrico Angelucci, co-owner of Il Buco, said they would "follow instruction from the government."

"We are not going to have a choice," he said.

Angelucci added that he expects to lose business because of the vaccine certificate requirements.

"From the beginning, the [government] told us to close the restaurant. We closed the restaurant. They told us to do the count, and we did the count. Now they are going to tell us to expect people to be double vaccinated and see this passport. If that is what's they want, that's what we are going to do."

HOW TO GET A VACCINE CERTIFICATE

Vaccinated residents should have a paper copy or email version of their vaccination status.

The province said it would develop additional tools to improve the certificate, including a new verification app.

Individuals will be required to show their vaccination receipt and another photo ID to access specific non-essential venues.

"This is a temporary tool that we won't use for a day longer than we have to," the premier added.

Residents with a green health card can log in to the provincial portal to download or print their vaccine receipt.

Anyone with a white and red health card can call the Provincial Vaccine Booking Line at 1-888-999-6488 to get a copy of their vaccination receipt by email.

With files from CTV News Toronto