It’s September 22, which for some means the first day of Fall, but for most Ontarians, it’s the day of change. Today, the Ontario vaccine passport will be implemented across the province in the fight against COVID-19. So, what does this mean for the people of Ontario?
Vaccine passports will be implemented as of September 22, 2021
As we head into the cooler months with the Delta Variant making its rounds, Premier Doug Ford announced earlier this month that proof of vaccination would be required for non-essential businesses and activities. As of today, this is in effect for all Ontarians. This requirement means the individual will need to have two vaccine doses plus 14 days (with photo ID) to be considered fully vaccinated. These measures are meant to protect the province’s hospital capacity in the thick of its fourth wave, while also supporting businesses with the tools they need to keep their patrons safe and their doors open.
What types of businesses will be affected by the new Ontario vaccine passport system?
Proof of full vaccination will be required in high-risk indoor public settings where face masks cannot be enforced at all times. This includes:
- Restaurants and bars (excluding outdoor patios, as well as delivery and takeout);
- Nightclubs (including outdoor areas of the establishment);
- Meeting and event spaces, such as banquet halls and conference/convention centres;
- Facilities used for sports and fitness activities and personal fitness training, such as gyms, fitness and recreational facilities with the exception of youth recreational sport;
- Sporting events;
- Casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments;
- Concerts, music festivals, theatres and cinemas;
- Strip clubs, bathhouses and sex clubs;
- Racing venues (e.g., horse racing);
List taken from news.ontario.ca
As of now, these mandatory requirements do not apply to outdoor settings where the risk of transmission is lower, including patios in most cases. Proof of vaccination will not be required for essential services, such as grocery stores and places to receive medical care and/or medical supplies.
Are medical exemptions acceptable in place of a vaccine passport?
According to the Ontario website, “Individuals who cannot receive the vaccine due to medical exemptions will be permitted entry with a doctor’s note until recognized medical exemptions can be integrated as part of a digital vaccine certificate. Children who are 11 years of age and younger and unable to be vaccinated will also be exempted from these requirements.”
Are negative COVID-19 tests valid for entry into a business mentioned above?
From today’s date until October 12, 2021, people attending wedding or funeral receptions at meeting or event spaces are able to provide “a negative rapid antigen COVID-19 test from no more than 48 hours before the event as an alternative to proof of vaccination.” These rapid antigen tests would be purchased at your own expense.
How will business owners enforce these new rules?
As mentioned previously, those entering any of the aforementioned businesses will need to provide proof of full vaccination (currently in the form of a PDF document or paper) as well as a government-issued ID. Ontario plans to provide additional tools to improve user experience, efficiency and business supports in the coming weeks. Many business owners have expressed concern for how this is to be policed by their staff and the added pressure it will bring. Alastair Knight, a spokesperson for Craft restaurant in downtown Toronto, said “The person at the front door is the hostess from open to close and nine times out of ten, sometimes are the youngest and most inexperienced people that we have in the business … And to have the pressure put on them with asking the guests this information is obviously going to be tough…” There is a bit of a learning curve that will be expected when entering into the first phase of the vaccine certificate system.
An enhanced digital vaccine receipt that features a QR code and app is expected to roll out at the end of October to further simplify the validation process. Premier Doug Ford had this to say before Ontarians enter into this new way of life, “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.”
For more detailed information about business requirements, visit the Ontario website at covid-19.ontario.ca.