Province releases guidance for businesses on new vaccine verification program

Health Minister Christine Elliott at a media conference, September 14, 2021. (via YouTube)

Ontario’s Health Minister is advising restaurants and other non-essential businesses to call the police if they feel threatened while enforcing the province’s new vaccine policy.

Starting September 22, patrons will need to show proof of being fully vaccinated before eating indoors, watching a sporting event, or going to the gym.

These businesses are being asked to verify a person’s vaccine receipt against government issued ID before allowing them to partake in activities indoors.

“If at any point they feel threatened, we want them to call 911 as soon as possible to make sure that our police officers can be there to assist,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott. “We want to ensure that everyone conforms to these rules, but if anyone feels threatened we do have the facilities available for people to seek help.”

A QR code based system is being developed and will be launched by October 22. However, it will not be mandatory for an individual to use the QR code app, as paper or digital receipts can still be used.

Individuals with a doctor’s note stating a medical exemption will also be allowed to enter these indoor facilities. The doctor’s note must include the individual’s name, a doctor’s signature, and be on a professional letter head with contact information.

Individuals with medical exemptions will be able to confirm their status in the provincial vaccine tracking system, which will be imprinted to the QR app when it becomes available.

People will not need to show proof of vaccine while entering an indoor space if they are going indoors solely to use the washroom, make a retail purchase, or pick up an order.

“If you go indoors and it’s less than 15 minutes the risk to exposure to others is much less,” said Chief Medical Officer Kieran Moore. “Also, as you go indoors you will be wearing a mask.”

Individuals and businesses that choose not to comply could be fined. Fines range from $750 for individuals and $1,000 for corporations to $100,000 for an individual to $10 million for a corporation.

“There will be bylaw enforcement officers that will be doing a lot of the monitoring there and making sure that businesses conform, just as we are expecting individuals to conform to the requirements,” said Elliott.

Since the announcement of a vaccine certificate program, the province says there has been a 29 per cent increase in the number of first doses being administered.

“High rates of vaccination against COVID-19 are critical to helping protect our communities and hospital capacity while keeping Ontario schools and businesses safely open,” said Elliott. “As we continue our last mile push to increase vaccination rates, requiring proof of immunization in select settings will encourage even more Ontarians to receive the vaccine and stop the spread of COVID-19. If you haven’t received your first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, please sign up today.”

Nearly 84.5% of Ontarians 12+ have one dose and 78.2% have two doses.