Either a necessary step or a step backwards. Premier Doug Ford said that businesses should be asked for proof of vaccination on Wednesday morning, and this was just as the program was launched in Ontario. He also stated that it was the best chance the province had to fight COVID-19.
Ford appeared on camera for only the second time in several weeks following Queen’s Park’s prorogued up to Oct. 4. He explained that the measures, which require patrons to enter most non-essential business premises to provide mobile proof or paper proof COVID-19 double vaccine, were necessary for the province and would not last.
Ford stated, “This is a temporary, exceptional measure.” After public opposition, Ford made the statement to defend his decision to create the “vaccine passport” earlier in the month. “We will use these certificates only for the time they are required and not for any longer.”
This new system was in effect since Wednesday morning (Sept. 22). Individuals must prove they have been fully vaccinated before entering indoor venues, including restaurants, nightclubs (outdoor or indoor), gyms, and concert venues.
Along with government identification, evidence of dosage may be required. However, notes for medical exemption may be used.
Businesses that provide essential services or municipal facilities, such as pharmacies, grocery stores, or other city facilities that allow in-person bill or tax payments, will not be eligible for the “vaccine passport” program. Business owners have been critical of the program recently, pointing out that they don’t have enough staff to enforce security or record checks. The program was taken offline for maintenance on Wednesday morning.
The province reported Wednesday that 85 percent of residents had received one dose, and 79 percent had received both. There were 463 new cases and ten deaths, which is the lowest number of cases reported in a single month.
New cases were added to the register every day over the weekend. The province stated that companies that do not adhere to the passport program might be fined. However, there was no guidance or timetable for the rollout of the mobile app and QR code system to verify proof that vaccinations were received on Oct. 22.
Ford spoke Wednesday morning to reporters, stating that everyone should be patient during the rollout. Ford said that there would be some learning. Ford stated, “I want it to be crystal clear: enforcement will lead education and will be reasonable for business owners.”
Some didn’t like this, and Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath demanded that stronger measures be taken. Horwath said that the 85 percent of us who got our vaccines did the right thing. He called for Ford to “fix” it, suggesting that antivaccination protests fuel a broader gap in public opinion about public health.
Horwath stated that Ford’s loopholes, gaps and exemptions “encourage the anti-vax crowd” and provide oxygen for those protests. “No one should be forced to go through harassment or intimidation just because they did the right thing.” Other municipalities, such as Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, warned that the program could lead to a high price tag for those who try to follow the law.
“There is a huge new cost being placed on the backs municipalities, and Peel Police have not been allocated any additional resources for enforcement. Brown stated Wednesday afternoon that Bylaw had not been given any additional resources to enforce. This indicates that enforcement divisions receive more calls than they have officers to respond.
“With the federal government providing a billion dollars for the provinces, it is imperative that resources are also allocated to municipalities if this program is to work and be implemented.”
In a statement, the province stated that scheduled maintenance would be performed on the proof-of-vaccination website (https://covid19.ca). Ontariohealth.ca will be down every Tuesday from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. Wednesday and Saturday from 12 p.m. to 9 a.m. Sunday.