TORONTO – Prime Minister Doug Ford tried to allay concerns about Ontario’s vaccine certificate system on the eve of its implementation, saying the province needed to do everything it could to keep fighting COVID-19.
Ford said Tuesday that it knew many people were concerned the system would hamper their civil liberties, but noted that the biggest concern was experiencing a surge in infections and having to close the province again.
“This pandemic remains an emergency and there are real consequences of not acting,” he said in a statement.
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“We need to do everything in our power to avoid future lockdowns and shutdowns. That is why we are temporarily implementing these exceptional measures 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.
Starting Wednesday, patrons of restaurants, nightclubs, gyms, sports venues, and other venues will be required to present a completed vaccination receipt along with a government-issued form of identification. Physician notes will also be accepted for medical exemptions.
On October 22, the province aims to launch a QR code and verification app for companies to streamline the process.
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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.
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.
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The Health Ministry reported Tuesday that 85.2 percent of Ontario residents age 12 and older have received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 79.2 percent are fully vaccinated.
The province reported 574 new COVID-19 cases and eight more virus-related deaths on Tuesday. Health Minister Christine Elliott said 434 of those cases are in people who are not fully vaccinated or have unknown vaccination status. There were 330 people hospitalized with the virus, and 303 were not fully vaccinated.
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