TORONTO — Ontario Premier Doug Ford is asking residents to be patient with businesses owners and frontline staff as the province's COVID-19 vaccine certificate system takes effect.
Ford – who emphasized that he had been reluctant to introduce the system – says vaccine certificates will help avoid another lockdown during the pandemic.
Starting today, patrons need to show proof of vaccination and government identification to access some high-risk settings including restaurant dining rooms, gyms and other venues.
There are penalties for non-compliance but Ford says enforcement will take an educational approach at first.
The premier says the "exceptional" measure won't be in place for longer than necessary, although he did not provide a specific date for when it might end.
Ford says he's also having discussions with the province's top doctor about the possibility of increasing capacity limits for businesses that must now abide by the policy.
Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, has asked residents to be "kind and considerate" as the system kicks in.
Moore has also said he believes the system will lead to a boost in vaccinations, particularly among those aged 20 to 39 since that cohort often frequents venues covered by the system.
The latest provincial data shows that 85.3 per cent of Ontarians over the age of 12 have one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and nearly 79.4 per cent have two doses.
Businesses have said they feel prepared to implement the system but are uncertain how patrons will respond to it.
James Rilett, Restaurants Canada’s vice-president for Central Canada, said restaurants are "as prepared as they can be" but are expecting "some loss of business" and confrontations with some patrons.
Ryan Mallough, senior director of Ontario affairs at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said businesses have a "decent understanding" of what's required but there's "some stress and anxiety around what happens in a moment that doesn't go smoothly."
While venues will have to check paper or digital vaccine receipts with identification at first, the province has said it will streamline the process with a planned Oct. 22 launch of a QR code and verification app for businesses.
Ontario reported 463 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and seven more deaths linked to the virus.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said 332 of those new cases were in people who are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status.
Elliott also said 299 people are hospitalized with the virus, with 187 people in intensive care.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2021.
The Canadian Press