TORONTO – Ontario companies were making final preparations Tuesday for the implementation of the province’s vaccine certification system, saying they weren’t sure how it would be received but were hopeful that it would be rolled out without a hitch.
Customers of dining restaurants, nightclubs, gyms, sports venues and other venues will be required to present a complete vaccination receipt along with government-issued identification beginning Wednesday. Physician notes will also be accepted for medical exemptions.
Lovelina Antony, co-owner of Lyfe Meditation Studio and Plant Lyfe Cafe in Toronto, said her company has taken several steps to prepare for the system, including putting up posters informing customers of their requirements and training staff on how to check. proof of vaccination. .
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“I feel ready on our part, but in terms of how it’s going to be received, I don’t think any company can prepare for that,” Antony said.
While venues will need to verify paper or digital vaccine receipts with ID at first, the province has said it aims to launch a QR code and verification app for businesses on October 22 to streamline the process. Antony said he wished the app had been ready by Wednesday.
Katia Rodrigues, manager of Boxcar Social Riverside, a Toronto restaurant, said her staff “feel absolutely ready” for the new system.
Employees were briefed on why the system is being introduced (the government has said it is necessary to protect the vulnerable and avoid another lockdown) and how to approach customers, Rodrigues said, noting that staff have a diagram of flow on how to greet guests and ask if they want to sit inside or outside, where proof of vaccination is not required.
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“Always, during this pandemic, we have emphasized that people feel safe, that people feel cared for and that is a great priority,” he said.
Antoine Vautherot, a barista at the same café, said he was recently in France, where a vaccine testing system was implemented, noting that customers were generally “very compliant.”
“I’m pretty sure that after a few days, it will become part of everyday life,” he said. “I just hope it’s a smooth transition.”
The province’s top public health physician called on Ontarians to be “kind and considerate” as the system takes effect.
Dr. Kieran Moore said he believes the system will lead to an increase in vaccinations, especially among people ages 20 to 39.
“That age group likes to go out, naturally social, take advantage of bars, restaurants, discos,” he said. “Once you click the next few days that you need to get vaccinated to get in, that will change behaviors, that’s my hope.”
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Fines are on the table for companies that do not comply with the controls required by the system and for customers who provide false information.
But companies, ordinances, police forces and the province say that law enforcement will be soft at first, meaning that much of the heavy lifting will fall on the companies’ front-line personnel.
James Rilett, Restaurants Canada vice president for central Canada, said the restaurants are “as prepared as they can be” but expect “some loss of business” and clashes with some customers.
He added that companies have also expressed some confusion about medical exemptions, which the government has acknowledged could leave the system vulnerable to fraud.
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Ryan Mallough, senior director of Ontario affairs at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said companies have a “decent understanding” of what is required, but that there is “some stress and anxiety surrounding what happens in a business. moment that is not going well “.
Toronto resident Randy Haluza-Delay said he was ready to show his proof of vaccination.
“I wish we didn’t have to do that, but we are also seeing … a high enough percentage of people who are not vaccinated,” he said. “So we have to have some kind of proof that we are all doing the things that we have to do to keep everyone safe.”
Prime Minister Doug Ford tried to allay concerns about the system early Tuesday.
He said he knew many were concerned that the system would hamper their civil liberties, but noted that the biggest concern was experiencing a sudden spike in infections and having to close the province again.
“We need to do everything in our power to avoid future lockdowns and shutdowns,” it said in a statement. “That is why we are implementing these exceptional measures on a temporary basis and will end them as soon as they can be responsibly removed.”
Ford, which initially opposed vaccine certificates, announced the system earlier this month after weeks of pressure from experts, companies and their political opponents.
Retail stores and services considered “essential”, such as grocery stores, are exempt. Children under the age of 12 who cannot be vaccinated are also exempt, as are those under 18 who enter the facilities for organized sports.
The system also does not apply to on-site personnel.
The province said 85.2 percent of eligible Ontario residents had received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 79.2 percent were fully vaccinated.
Ontario reported 574 new infections Tuesday, 434 of them in people who were not fully vaccinated or who had unknown vaccination status.
– With files from John Chidley-Hill and Liam Casey
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