Ontario premier reveals new details on province's reopening plan

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says his government is finalizing its plans to exit the final stage of its reopening plan in order to “cautiously lift more public health measures” currently in place.

The premier made the comments during a news conference on Friday, which formally announced the launch of the province’s new enhanced COVID-19 vaccine verification app and QR code system.

He said the exit plan will be revealed sometime next week, and will provide clear guidelines with dates and timelines to allow businesses and Ontario residents to have a better idea of what to expect in the months ahead.

“The work began months ago and we're finalizing the plan now, including where and when we may need to reapply measures should they be required to stop a surge in transmission,” Ford told reporters on Friday.

“The chief medical officer of health has been clear. The objective is to avoid further lockdowns, and if additional measures are necessary, they will be localized, tailored and aimed at limiting disruption to businesses and families because this is not just a plan for the short term, but for the long term.”

Sources with knowledge of the plan told CTV News Toronto earlier this week that the province is working on a post-Step three strategy that will lift capacity limits on businesses where vaccine certificates are required.

Last week, the restaurants and bars slammed the province after they were excluded from the list of venues in Ontario that were allowed again to operate at full capacity. 

Ford said the decision came from the provincial health table and from the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore, who agreed to hold back on further expansions at the time. Ford said a plan will be announced for the restaurant industry next week.

“We're going to get to the restaurants. We're going to be rolling out a comprehensive plan, one that will stand the test of time,” he said. “I'm not going to rush it because anything you do in this pandemic and you rush, it can backfire on you, but we have a comprehensive plan that we're rolling out next week.”

Moore said the province’s plan would have information about dates and timelines on the further reopening of the economy.

NEW ENHANCED VACCINE CERTIFICATE PROGRAM LAUNCHES TODAY

Premier Ford formally launched Ontario's COVID-19 vaccine verification app and QR code system on Friday.

While businesses can download the new free app now, some Ontario residents will not be able to download the enhanced certificates with the QR codes until later this weekend as it will initially only be available in cohorts based on date of birth.

“Together, the enhanced certificate and Verify Ontario app will make it easier and more secure for Ontarians to show their proof of vaccine,” Ford told reporters on Friday.

"Starting today, individuals born in January, February, March and April can log on to Ontario's vaccine portal to download their enhanced certificate, which now includes their official QR code."

Over the next few days, the province will allow people with later birth dates to access the portal. The portal will be open to everyone on Oct. 18.

Since Sept. 22, residents in the province have needed proof of vaccination in order to visit some non-essential businesses and services in Ontario.

For nearly a month now, residents have been using a COVID-19 receipt and government identification to prove their vaccination status, but now they will be able to use the enhanced QR code instead that businesses can scan with the new app.

Currently, people need to be fully vaccinated to enter gyms, indoor restaurants, movie theatres, indoor meeting and event spaces, sports venues and concert halls.

“[These certificates] mean we have the best chance to avoid being forced back into lockdowns that nobody wants. Much like the vaccine rollout, we asked Ontarians to pull together and you've responded once again,” Ford said on Friday.

“We’re doing well because our approach was cautious and built on the advice of our public health experts. We have seen what happens in other provinces that move to quickly and the result can be devastating.”