Ontario to launch digital vaccine certificate and verification app

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Ontarians will soon have a provincial digital vaccine certificate which will be required in select settings such as restaurants, nightclubs, cinemas, casinos, gyms, meeting and event spaces, etc. from September 22. 

The province announced on Wednesday that it will be launching a digital vaccine certificate  with a QR code as well as an app for businesses to verify that the document is valid.

“Based on the latest evidence and best advice, COVID-19 vaccine certificates give us the best chance to slow the spread of this virus while helping us to avoid further lockdowns, Premier Doug Ford said at a press briefing on Wednesday. “If you haven’t received your first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, please do so today.”

This digital vaccine receipt can be kept on a phone and easily used. In addition, the province will launch a new app to make it easier and more convenient for businesses and organizations to read and verify that a digital vaccine receipt is valid, while protecting the individual’s privacy.

“Combining the use of a QR code with a trusted, made in Ontario verifier app will help support the province’s health measures,” said Kaleed Rasheed, Associate Minister of Digital Government. “These tools will provide a simpler, faster, and better way to prove vaccination status that is both convenient and secure – while also supporting businesses with an easy validation process.”

As of September 22, Ontarians will need to provide proof of vaccination along with a photo ID, such as a driver’s licence or health card, to access:  

  • Restaurants and bars 
  • Nightclubs (including outdoor areas of the establishment)
  • Meeting and event spaces, such as banquet halls and conference/convention centres
  • Facilities used for sports and fitness activities and personal fitness training, such as gyms, fitness and recreational facilities with the exception of youth recreational sport
  • Sporting events
  • Casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments
  • Concerts, music festivals, theatres and cinemas
  • Strip clubs, bathhouses and sex clubs
  • Racing venues (e.g., horse racing)

These mandatory requirements would not apply to outdoor settings where the risk of transmission is lower, including patios, with the exception of outdoor nightclub spaces given the risk associated with the setting, officials said. In addition, these requirements will not apply to settings where people receive medical care, food from grocery stores, medical supplies and the like. Indoor masking policies will continue to remain in place.

Individuals who cannot receive the vaccine due to medical exemptions will be permitted entry with a doctor’s note until recognized medical exemptions can be integrated as part of a digital vaccine certificate. Children who are 11 years of age and younger and unable to be vaccinated will also be exempted from these requirements.

Officials said requiring proof of vaccination in these settings reduces risk and is an important step to encourage every last eligible Ontarian to get their shot, which is critical to protecting the province’s hospital capacity, while also supporting businesses with the tools they need to keep customers safe, stay open and minimize disruptions.

For the period between September 22 and October 12, it is intended that people attending wedding or funeral receptions at meeting or event spaces will be able to provide a negative rapid antigen COVID-19 test from no more than 48 hours before the event as an alternative to proof of vaccination. These rapid antigen tests would have to be privately purchased.

The province is working on establishing alternative tools for people with no email, health card or ID. 

Ontarians currently have access to a paper or PDF vaccine receipt that includes all relevant information to prove that they are fully vaccinated. 

When asked why it had taken so long, Ford said that a national vaccine certificate should have been issued especially for international travel. However, he has decided to launch a provincial document since Trudeau refused to provide one during a federal election and Ontario can’t wait any longer.

 

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