Mississauga, Hamilton and Ontario must wait for Ford’s vaccine certificate announcement

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Published August 30, 2021 at 9:49 pm

Ontario Premier Doug Ford last held a media conference on July 30. (The Canadian Press)

It will be at least one news cycle before Ontario Premier Doug Ford announces the provincial COVID-19 vaccine certificate system.

The premier, who has not held a press conference in 4½ weeks, was slated to make an annoucement on Tuesday (Aug. 31) about Ontario introducing a system that would help verify whether someone entering a non-essential business was vaccinated. There have been calls for weeks from big-city mayors such as Mississauga’s Bonnie Crombie, business groups, health groups, school boards and medical professionals for the introduction of a provincial credential, especially as the Delta variant spreads.

However, multiple reports on Monday said the announcement had been called off, without any word of a rescheduled date.

A report in a Toronto newspaper indicated that for the first few weeks, people would use the current paper or digital receipt as proof of vaccination along with a piece of government-issued photo identification. An app would be introduced later.

British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec already have systems — sometimes called ‘vaccine passports’ — in place and it has led to a spike in vaccination uptake.

Ontario had 694 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, 527 of which were in unvaccinated people.

The B.C., Manitoba and Quebec systems can all be uploaded to a person’s smartphone. Alberta, which has the most COVID-19 cases in Canada in spite of having one-third the population of Ontario, is also introducing a so-called convenience card for people who have received a second dose.

At his media briefing on Monday, Niagara Region’s acting medical officer of health, Dr. Mustafa Hirji, said that a credential system is needed to avoid social and economic harm to businesses and workers. Hirji acknowledged that modelling shows an anticipated rise in COVID-19 cases in the fall and winter, and that having a credential that allows vaccinated people safer use of non-essential businesses is a better option than another lockdown.

“Get it designed, get it rolled out, so that when we do have the restrictions, people have that credential in place,” he said.

While the premier has put off the announcement, the Ontario government has already required employers to create a mandatory COVID-19 policy. On Aug. 24, the Ontario government issued a new regulation which binds employers to any and all recommendations issued by a local medical officer of health.

An analysis from The Canadian Press that was published the same day suggested Ford was not making vaccines mandatory for essential workers,

Peel Region issued recommendations to employers the following day, Aug. 25, and Halton Region published vaccination recommdendation guidance for employers on Aug. 26.

Ford’s last press conference was at Ontario Place on July 30.

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