With rising COVID-19 case numbers in Ontario, the province is delaying when it will lift the proof-of-vaccination requirements and adding enhanced public health measures.
The changes were announced today after 1,453 new cases were reported, with the test positivity rate spiking to 4.4 per cent.
“Ontario, like other jurisdictions around the world, is seeing concerning trends in public health and health care indicators, and additional measures are required to protect our progress for the long-term,” said Dr. Kieran Moore, chief medical officer of health, in a news release.
“All Ontarians are strongly urged to follow these and existing measures and get vaccinated with a first, second or booster dose if you have not done so already. These are the layers that are protecting everyone. By taking these actions, we can help to reduce the mobility of COVID-19 and its variants, protect public health and health system capacity and save lives. This is especially important as we enter the holiday season and spend more time with family and friends. We need to keep each other safe.”
Today's new measures are:
- Proof of vaccination requirements in certain settings will not be lifted on Jan. 17.
- Effective Jan. 4, the enhanced vaccine certificate with the QR code and the Verify Ontario app must be used where proof of vaccination is required. The QR code can be used digitally or can be printed here.
- A QR code certificate will be required for medical exemptions and clinical trial exemptions. As of Jan. 10, physician notes will no longer be accepted under the proof-of-vaccination system.
- Dec. 20 all youth ages 12 to 17 participating at organized sports at recreational facilities must be vaccinated.
With the holiday season underway, chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore is also strongly advising people to limit the number of gatherings they attend.
"Additional precautions should be taken if all individuals are not fully vaccinated or where vaccination status is unknown. Employers in all industries should make every effort to allow employees to work from home," reads the news release.
Next week, the province's enhanced winter testing strategy will start. Rapid tests will be offered to people in high-traffic areas such as malls and transit hubs.
Monday, Dec. 13, people 50 years and older will be able to book a booster vaccine appointment. The third dose is available to people six months after receiving the second dose.
In October, Premier Doug Ford announced his plan to lift COVID-19 public health measures by March 2022. While capacity limits have been lifted at most higher risk settings requiring proof of vaccination, the second step — lifting capacity limits at the remaining higher risk settings such as night clubs, strip clubs and sex clubs — has been postponed, with the most recent delay happening earlier this week.
The next step was Jan. 17, when the province planned to start lifting vaccination requirements at some settings. Jan. 17 is also when Ford said capacity limits could be gradually lifted in settings where proof of vaccination is not required.