TORONTO (AP) — Ontario on Wednesday became the fourth Canadian province to announce residents will have to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to enter restaurants, theaters, gyms and other indoor public venues.
Premier Doug Ford said the vaccination certificate program will take effect Sept. 22.
“I know this is what we have to do right now in the face of this fourth wave,” Ford told a news conference.
Initially, residents will show a PDF or printout of the vaccination receipt they received when they got their COVID-19 shots, along with a government-issued piece of ID such as a photo health card or driver’s license.
The province is expected to launch a system in late October that will send everyone a QR code to accompany their vaccination receipt. It will also launch an app that will allow service providers to scan the QR codes as proof of vaccination.
“This is something that we did not want to do,” Ford said. “This is a serious step we are not taking lightly. I know this is going to be very difficult for some people.
“This is a temporary tool that we won’t use for a day longer than we have to. These certificates are necessary to keep our hospitals safe and to avoid another lockdown.”
British Columbia, Quebec and Manitoba have also implemented some form of vaccine certificate program.
In Ontario, the certificate will be necessary to enter restaurants and bars, nightclubs, meeting spaces such as banquet halls, gyms, sporting events, casinos, concerts and theaters.
The requirement will not apply to outdoor settings, with the exception of outdoor nightclubs.
People who are medically exempt from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and those under 12 years of age will be able to access settings where the vaccine certificate is required without receiving the shots.
Vaccination status will not affect anyone’s ability to receive necessary medical care, food from grocery stores, basic medical supplies or other essentials, nor will it affect the ability to vote in the upcoming federal election.
As of Tuesday, 76.4% of eligible Ontarians had received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines, or roughly 67.7% of Ontario’s total population.
On Wednesday Ontario reported 656 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 deaths.
Provincial Health Minister Christine Elliott said 504 of the new infections are in people who are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status.