Prime Minister Doug Ford is defending Ontario’s new COVID-19 vaccination certificate system that went into effect Wednesday, saying it will help keep virus transmission under control and will be removed as soon as conditions allow.
“We cannot afford to close again or see another surge in cases like we have seen in other provinces,” Ford said in his first press conference in the legislature since announcing the program on Sept. 1.
“We will only use these certificates for as long as they are necessary and not a day longer,” he added, noting that it is not yet possible to establish an expiration date for the program.
Under the system, proof of vaccination certificates and government-issued identification such as a driver’s license or health card must be shown to enter gyms, theaters, indoor restaurants, sports, and other non-essential venues.
As previously stated, Ford said it resisted the certificate system because it limits “civil liberties” but believes it was made necessary by the highly contagious Delta variant that makes this a “special circumstance.”
Ontario’s passport system was launched one day when the website to download proof of vaccination had been offline for scheduled maintenance overnight, what liberal leader Steven Del Duca called “another example of the lack of competition “from the government.
The website crashed several times throughout the morning.
Several gyms said some patrons were turned away on Wednesday when they arrived to exercise without knowing the new system, which was announced by Ford on Sept. 1.
Opposition parties have asked Ford to expand vaccine passports to more nonessential places and services.
“Leaving salons and hair salons off the list does not make sense,” said environmental leader Mike Schreiner, who urged the prime minister to provide financial support to businesses to cover the additional costs of verifying and enforcing vaccination certificates.
That call was echoed by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
Fines for violating the vaccination certificate system start at $ 750 for individuals and $ 1,000 for businesses, but Ford said the application will initially be educational in focus and “will be reasonable for business owners.”
Ontario reported seven more deaths from COVID-19 and 463 new cases on Wednesday, the lowest number of new infections since mid-August. The seven-day average for new cases was 692 after stabilizing in recent weeks.
Ford said statistics show the province is “holding the line” regarding the pandemic for now.
“Ontario has had the most cautious reopening of any province,” he added. “Let us protect the achievements that we have made with great effort.”
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