Ontario officials have released more guidance on the implementation of the province’s proof-of-vaccination system, which comes into effect on Sept. 22.
The vaccine certificate system will cover “higher-risk” indoor spaces where masks can’t be worn at all times, officials say. The province has amended its list to apply to the following settings:
- Restaurants and bars (excluding outdoor patios, delivery and takeout).
- Nightclubs, including outdoor areas.
- Meeting and event spaces like banquet halls and convention centres.
- Sports and fitness facilities and gyms, with the exception of youth recreational sports.
- Sporting events.
- Casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments.
- Concerts, music festivals, theatres and cinemas.
- Strip clubs, bath houses and sex clubs.
- Racing venues.
- Indoor areas of waterparks.
- Areas of commercial TV, where studio audiences will be treated as patrons who have to be fully vaccinated.
Businesses and organizations that fall under the list above will be required to cross-reference vaccination receipts with identification (including options like a driver’s license, birth certificate or passport), and make sure the receipt shows any patron has been fully vaccinated for 14 days.
The province says provincial offences officers will be visiting businesses and organizations starting this week to raise awareness and understanding of the new requirements.
Officials also say that if individuals or businesses don’t comply, they could be charged or fined.
Some exemptions exist
But officials say exemptions will be made in certain circumstances. Those include the following cases:
- When a patron enters an indoor area solely to use a washroom, pay for an order or access an outdoor area that can only be accessed through an indoor route.
- When a patron enters an indoor area to place or pick up an order (including placing a bet or picking up winnings at a horse racing track), to purchase admission, to make a retail purchase, and for the “necessary purposes of health and safety.”
- Children under 12 years old.
- Patrons under 18 years old who are entering the indoor premises of a recreational facility solely for the purpose of actively participating in an organized sport.
- Weddings, funerals, rites or ceremonies, when the patron is not attending the associated social gathering (for example, the reception after a wedding ceremony).
- Patrons with a written document from a physician or a nurse stating they are exempt for medical reasons.
When asked at a Tuesday afternoon press conference about allowing unvaccinated patrons at a restaurant to enter an indoor space while paying a bill or going to the washroom, Moore said it’s still not considered a high-risk contact.
“Typical contact tracing of 15 minutes or less would not be high-risk contact,” he said. “For this reason short visits indoors to pay a bill or go to a washroom is based on best evidence.”
The rules assume unvaccinated patrons will be masked and it’ll be 15 minutes or less spent indoors, he said.
At first, fully vaccinated Ontarians will need their current vaccination receipt with a valid photo identification to enter premises covered under the new system.
Those with a green photo OHIP card print or download their receipts from the provincial government website. Those with a red and white health card, meanwhile, can call the Provincial Vaccine Booking Line at 1-833-943-3900.
People who received their first or second dose out of province are being asked to contact their local public health unit to receive proper documentation.
The province says guidance for businesses will be updated before Oct. 22, when the province will shift to certificates that include QR codes containing much of the same information included on current vaccination receipts.
At a Tuesday news conference, Associate Minister of Digital Government Kaleed Rasheed said Ontarians can print or download proof-of-vaccine receipts from the province’s website, and that’s what patrons will have to show at the door of establishments.
People can continue to use the print version after Oct. 22 if they so choose, Rasheed said.
Businesses will be able to download a free app to scan and verify QR codes after that date.
“It will make it easier, more secure, and convenient to show you have been vaccinated when you need to,” he said.
“Your information will never be stored on our app, it will only show the minimum of information needed to confirm an individual has been fully vaccinated,” he said.
Bylaw enforcement officers will be monitoring to make sure businesses conform to requirements, Health Minister Christine Elliott said.
Anyone at a businesses that is concerned about feeling threatened over entry should call 911, she said.
“We want to make sure everyone conforms to these rules, but if anyone feels threatened we have the facilities available for people to seek help,” Elliott said.
“I don’t anticipate demand will be huge, we’re asking people to be reasonable, we’ve let people know what the requirements are,” she said.
Third doses for certain groups
Meanwhile, the province says it’s moving forward with offering third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to certain groups, following recommendations made by Canada’s national advisory body last week.
To date, the province says it has administered more than 30,000 third doses.
Groups who will be offered a third vaccine include people undergoing active treatment for solid tumours and those who are in receipt of a solid-organ transplant and taking immunosuppressive therapy.
A full list can be found on the government’s website.
Ontario also reported 577 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and seven more deaths.
Of the new cases, 452 are among individuals who have either not been fully vaccinated or whose vaccination status is unknown.
Here are some other key pandemic indicators and figures from the Ministry of Health’s daily provincial update:
Tests completed: 21,133.
Provincewide test positivity rate: 2.3 per cent.
Active cases: 6,103.
Patients in ICU with COVID-related illnesses: 192, with 119 needing a ventilator to breathe.
Deaths: seven, pushing the official toll to 9,624.
Vaccinations: 21,212,026 doses of vaccine have been administered to date. Of those, 28,657 were administered yesterday — nearly double Sunday’s total. More than 84 per cent of Ontarians eligible for a vaccine have now received one dose, while more than 78 per cent have received two doses.