TORONTO — Ontario’s new COVID-19 vaccine certificate system is in effect.
Patrons at dine-in restaurants, nightclubs, gyms, sports facilities and other venues must present a receipt of full vaccination along with government identification.
Doctors’ notes for medical exemptions will also be accepted.
Businesses that don’t comply with the checks required by the system and patrons who give false information may be fined.
Premier Doug Ford tweeted about the vaccine certificates on Wednesday morning, encouraging Ontarians to respect the new verification program.
“I know this may be tough for some, but we owe it to our businesses to do everything we can to avoid lockdowns,” said Ford. “Please be patient. Let’s all continue to support our amazing businesses.”
Ford said in an open letter on Tuesday that he understands that some people are concerned their civil liberties are being infringed upon. But he said the greater concern is experiencing a sudden surge in infections and having to lock down the province again.
The province’s top public health doctor has asked Ontarians to be “kind and considerate” as the system takes effect.
Dr. Kieran 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.
Fines are possible for businesses that don’t comply with the checks required by the system, and for patrons who give false information. But businesses, bylaw officers, police forces and the province say enforcement will be gentle at first.
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.