‘We will not be doing this suddenly’: Ontario will slowly phase out vaccine passports next year, top doctor says

News Oct 14, 2021 by Rob Ferguson Queen's Park Bureau

Ontarians should expect a “phased exit” from the vaccine passport system sometime next year, the province’s chief medical officer said Thursday as he cautioned the lifting of customer limits in restaurants and gyms will be “slow, gradual and cautious.”

Despite the abrupt removal of capacity limits on major sporting venues and theatres last weekend with less than 24 hours’ notice, Dr. Kieran Moore said he’s waiting “seven to 14 days” to see if there is a spike in COVID-19 cases from Thanksgiving gatherings before making any more recommendations.

“We will not be doing this suddenly,” he told reporters at a weekly news conference that came a day after sources told the Star a plan for further reopening of Ontario’s economy will be announced by Premier Doug Ford next week.

The lifting of 50 per cent capacity limits on venues like the Scotiabank Arena — where the Maple Leafs won a packed home-opener on Wednesday night — infuriated people who work in the restaurant and fitness industries because there was no explanation of why they were excluded.

That resulted in intense pressure on Ford’s government to justify a decision that seemed inconsistent to many critics, given that proof of vaccination against COVID-19 is also required for indoor dining, workouts and other activities like dance classes and bowling, even as those businesses struggle financially.

“I personally regret any issues with communication,” Moore said when asked about the situation. “We are cognizant of the negative effects on business ... bear with us.”

He maintained the move to ease restrictions on major venues was the result of “months” of discussions with the government, but admitted “some of these decisions are made quickly.”

The president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business took to Twitter to scoff at the process, noting that masking appeared minimal at the Leafs game against the Montreal Canadiens.

“Giant sports venues = 100% capacity now (despite largely ignoring mask rules),” Dan Kelly wrote. “Small restaurants, bowling alleys, dance studios = we need to wait a few more weeks.”

On masking at the Leafs game, Moore said Ontario’s policy on wearing face coverings in public places when not eating or drinking is a “risk-reduction” strategy and not “risk elimination.”

“When you go to these venues, there is a risk ... not all people will adhere to the best practice,” he said.

Vaccine passports are here for at least the next few months before a “phased removal,” added Moore, who has previously warned that COVID-19 and its highly contagious Delta variant will mean a “difficult” fall and winter.

Sectors such as restaurants could be dropped from the vaccine passport system one by one, depending on data on the spread of the virus in those businesses generally, he suggested.

“We may not require them in some venues but still require them in mass gatherings where we have a large number of people,” Moore said.

“We’re still reviewing that science and getting the input of our experts but we do not see the whole (vaccination) certification process ending suddenly,” he added.

“I can’t see us eliminating them until we get through some of the difficult holiday times.”

Ford has said that the vaccine passport system implemented on Sept. 22 is temporary. The next provincial election is June 2.

Warm weather over the Thanksgiving weekend in much of Ontario could bode well for COVID-19 case levels because many family gatherings were able to be held outside, but it’s “too early” to be sure, Moore warned.

Ontario reported 417 new infections Thursday, lowering the seven-day moving average to 476. The average has been steadily falling since Sept. 5 even as children have returned to in-class learning, and hospitalizations are low.

Moore credited the positive trends to pandemic precautions and the fact that almost 83 per cent of Ontarians over age 12 are fully vaccinated, while just over 87 per cent have had one dose.

“We have built up a considerable wall of immunity here in Ontario and, brick by brick, that wall is getting stronger,” he said, urging anyone who has not been vaccinated to get a shot as the province aims for a rate of at least 90 per cent.

Opposition parties are calling on Ford to detail a system for getting vaccines into the arms of children aged five to 11 when Health Canada gives its approval, which is expected soon.

Green Leader Mike Schreiner said Ontario needs a pre-registration system for shots, like the one implemented in British Columbia.

“It’s a guessing game for parents and families that want to do everything possible to keep their children safe,” he said.

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1

‘We will not be doing this suddenly’: Ontario will slowly phase out vaccine passports next year, top doctor says

News Oct 14, 2021 by Rob Ferguson Queen's Park Bureau

Ontarians should expect a “phased exit” from the vaccine passport system sometime next year, the province’s chief medical officer said Thursday as he cautioned the lifting of customer limits in restaurants and gyms will be “slow, gradual and cautious.”

Despite the abrupt removal of capacity limits on major sporting venues and theatres last weekend with less than 24 hours’ notice, Dr. Kieran Moore said he’s waiting “seven to 14 days” to see if there is a spike in COVID-19 cases from Thanksgiving gatherings before making any more recommendations.

“We will not be doing this suddenly,” he told reporters at a weekly news conference that came a day after sources told the Star a plan for further reopening of Ontario’s economy will be announced by Premier Doug Ford next week.

The lifting of 50 per cent capacity limits on venues like the Scotiabank Arena — where the Maple Leafs won a packed home-opener on Wednesday night — infuriated people who work in the restaurant and fitness industries because there was no explanation of why they were excluded.

That resulted in intense pressure on Ford’s government to justify a decision that seemed inconsistent to many critics, given that proof of vaccination against COVID-19 is also required for indoor dining, workouts and other activities like dance classes and bowling, even as those businesses struggle financially.

“I personally regret any issues with communication,” Moore said when asked about the situation. “We are cognizant of the negative effects on business ... bear with us.”

He maintained the move to ease restrictions on major venues was the result of “months” of discussions with the government, but admitted “some of these decisions are made quickly.”

The president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business took to Twitter to scoff at the process, noting that masking appeared minimal at the Leafs game against the Montreal Canadiens.

“Giant sports venues = 100% capacity now (despite largely ignoring mask rules),” Dan Kelly wrote. “Small restaurants, bowling alleys, dance studios = we need to wait a few more weeks.”

On masking at the Leafs game, Moore said Ontario’s policy on wearing face coverings in public places when not eating or drinking is a “risk-reduction” strategy and not “risk elimination.”

“When you go to these venues, there is a risk ... not all people will adhere to the best practice,” he said.

Vaccine passports are here for at least the next few months before a “phased removal,” added Moore, who has previously warned that COVID-19 and its highly contagious Delta variant will mean a “difficult” fall and winter.

Sectors such as restaurants could be dropped from the vaccine passport system one by one, depending on data on the spread of the virus in those businesses generally, he suggested.

“We may not require them in some venues but still require them in mass gatherings where we have a large number of people,” Moore said.

“We’re still reviewing that science and getting the input of our experts but we do not see the whole (vaccination) certification process ending suddenly,” he added.

“I can’t see us eliminating them until we get through some of the difficult holiday times.”

Ford has said that the vaccine passport system implemented on Sept. 22 is temporary. The next provincial election is June 2.

Warm weather over the Thanksgiving weekend in much of Ontario could bode well for COVID-19 case levels because many family gatherings were able to be held outside, but it’s “too early” to be sure, Moore warned.

Ontario reported 417 new infections Thursday, lowering the seven-day moving average to 476. The average has been steadily falling since Sept. 5 even as children have returned to in-class learning, and hospitalizations are low.

Moore credited the positive trends to pandemic precautions and the fact that almost 83 per cent of Ontarians over age 12 are fully vaccinated, while just over 87 per cent have had one dose.

“We have built up a considerable wall of immunity here in Ontario and, brick by brick, that wall is getting stronger,” he said, urging anyone who has not been vaccinated to get a shot as the province aims for a rate of at least 90 per cent.

Opposition parties are calling on Ford to detail a system for getting vaccines into the arms of children aged five to 11 when Health Canada gives its approval, which is expected soon.

Green Leader Mike Schreiner said Ontario needs a pre-registration system for shots, like the one implemented in British Columbia.

“It’s a guessing game for parents and families that want to do everything possible to keep their children safe,” he said.

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1

‘We will not be doing this suddenly’: Ontario will slowly phase out vaccine passports next year, top doctor says

News Oct 14, 2021 by Rob Ferguson Queen's Park Bureau

Ontarians should expect a “phased exit” from the vaccine passport system sometime next year, the province’s chief medical officer said Thursday as he cautioned the lifting of customer limits in restaurants and gyms will be “slow, gradual and cautious.”

Despite the abrupt removal of capacity limits on major sporting venues and theatres last weekend with less than 24 hours’ notice, Dr. Kieran Moore said he’s waiting “seven to 14 days” to see if there is a spike in COVID-19 cases from Thanksgiving gatherings before making any more recommendations.

“We will not be doing this suddenly,” he told reporters at a weekly news conference that came a day after sources told the Star a plan for further reopening of Ontario’s economy will be announced by Premier Doug Ford next week.

The lifting of 50 per cent capacity limits on venues like the Scotiabank Arena — where the Maple Leafs won a packed home-opener on Wednesday night — infuriated people who work in the restaurant and fitness industries because there was no explanation of why they were excluded.

That resulted in intense pressure on Ford’s government to justify a decision that seemed inconsistent to many critics, given that proof of vaccination against COVID-19 is also required for indoor dining, workouts and other activities like dance classes and bowling, even as those businesses struggle financially.

“I personally regret any issues with communication,” Moore said when asked about the situation. “We are cognizant of the negative effects on business ... bear with us.”

He maintained the move to ease restrictions on major venues was the result of “months” of discussions with the government, but admitted “some of these decisions are made quickly.”

The president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business took to Twitter to scoff at the process, noting that masking appeared minimal at the Leafs game against the Montreal Canadiens.

“Giant sports venues = 100% capacity now (despite largely ignoring mask rules),” Dan Kelly wrote. “Small restaurants, bowling alleys, dance studios = we need to wait a few more weeks.”

On masking at the Leafs game, Moore said Ontario’s policy on wearing face coverings in public places when not eating or drinking is a “risk-reduction” strategy and not “risk elimination.”

“When you go to these venues, there is a risk ... not all people will adhere to the best practice,” he said.

Vaccine passports are here for at least the next few months before a “phased removal,” added Moore, who has previously warned that COVID-19 and its highly contagious Delta variant will mean a “difficult” fall and winter.

Sectors such as restaurants could be dropped from the vaccine passport system one by one, depending on data on the spread of the virus in those businesses generally, he suggested.

“We may not require them in some venues but still require them in mass gatherings where we have a large number of people,” Moore said.

“We’re still reviewing that science and getting the input of our experts but we do not see the whole (vaccination) certification process ending suddenly,” he added.

“I can’t see us eliminating them until we get through some of the difficult holiday times.”

Ford has said that the vaccine passport system implemented on Sept. 22 is temporary. The next provincial election is June 2.

Warm weather over the Thanksgiving weekend in much of Ontario could bode well for COVID-19 case levels because many family gatherings were able to be held outside, but it’s “too early” to be sure, Moore warned.

Ontario reported 417 new infections Thursday, lowering the seven-day moving average to 476. The average has been steadily falling since Sept. 5 even as children have returned to in-class learning, and hospitalizations are low.

Moore credited the positive trends to pandemic precautions and the fact that almost 83 per cent of Ontarians over age 12 are fully vaccinated, while just over 87 per cent have had one dose.

“We have built up a considerable wall of immunity here in Ontario and, brick by brick, that wall is getting stronger,” he said, urging anyone who has not been vaccinated to get a shot as the province aims for a rate of at least 90 per cent.

Opposition parties are calling on Ford to detail a system for getting vaccines into the arms of children aged five to 11 when Health Canada gives its approval, which is expected soon.

Green Leader Mike Schreiner said Ontario needs a pre-registration system for shots, like the one implemented in British Columbia.

“It’s a guessing game for parents and families that want to do everything possible to keep their children safe,” he said.

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1