Trudeau calls for Ford to 'step up' on proof of vaccines, as Ontario reports 781 new COVID-19 cases

Ontario is reporting 781 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, the largest daily case count since early June.

More than 82% of Ontarians aged 12 and over have now had at least 1 dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Specimens to be tested for COVID-19 are seen at a lab. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau called on Ontario Premier Doug Ford to "step up" and create a standardized proof-of-vaccine system at a campaign stop in Mississauga on Friday.

"This is about doing the right thing and the smart thing. Already, Premier Horgan and Premier Legault have stepped up. And I certainly hope that here in Ontario, Premier Ford steps up, as well," Trudeau said.

The comments came as part of a $1-billion election pitch for a proof-of-vaccine program fund, that would see the federal government pay for the rollout of vaccine mandate programs at the provincial or territorial level.

Ford's press secretary issued a statement in response Friday that didn't entirely deny the possibility of such a system.

Ontario has put forward "the most cautious" reopening plan including high vaccine thresholds, masking in indoor spaces, capacity limits, distance requirements and what Ivana Yelich described as "the most comprehensive, far-ranging mandatory vaccination policies for high-risk settings in the country."

"As Dr. [Kieran] Moore has already said, we will continue to monitor the trajectory and status of the delta variant and respond accordingly."

Earlier this week, the province refuted suggestions that it planned to implement vaccine passports. Ontario has repeatedly resisted such an approach, with Ford previously saying he doesn't want a "split society."

Ford has not held a news conference to take reporter questions in more than three weeks, as the start of the school year looms with the delta variant continuing to spread in the province.

Trudeau appeared alongside Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, who warned Thursday that without universal proof of vaccination, "we are going to end up with a patchwork of apps and programs that will confuse people and won't protect public health."

Meanwhile, local health units in Ontario could come up with their own vaccine passport if the province continues to resist, according to Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, medical officer of health for the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) and the head of a group representing local public health agencies in the province.

Ford hasn't held news conference in more than 3 weeks

On Wednesday, Peel Region's Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh also threw his support behind a vaccine certificate program, saying he was exploring local options if the province opts not to introduce one.

Vaccine task force winding down on Aug. 31

    Meanwhile, Ontario confirmed Friday its the work of its COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force will end Aug. 31, with the province moving to more targeted efforts as part of its "last mile strategy."

    Created in November 2020, the task force was temporarily led by retired general Rick Hillier, who left the job in March of this year. 

    Also among its members was Dr. Isaac Bogoch, who tweeted Friday, "The job isn't done."

    "There are still ongoing vaccine related issues that need to be addressed, like boosters, those under 12, outreach to unvaccinated populations, certificates, etc. The public health leadership in the province will be tackling those issues and more."

    Largest daily case count since early June

    Ontario reported 781 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, the largest daily case count since early June.

    However, 22 of the reported cases are from earlier in the pandemic, according to the province, and were held back due to a data error.

    Here are some other key indicators and figures from the Ministry of Health's daily provincial update:

    Tests completed: 30,063.

    Provincewide test positivity rate: three per cent.

    Active cases: 5,444.

    Patients in ICU with COVID-related illnesses: 158, with 87 needing a ventilator to breathe.

    Deaths: 17, pushing the official toll to 9,489. However, a spokesperson for Health Minister Christine Elliott says 14 of those deaths happened more than two months ago but were held back due to data errors.

    Vaccinations: 20,641,600 doses have been administered to date. More than 82 per cent of Ontarians eligible to receive a vaccine have now received a first dose. Nearly 76 per cent have received both doses. 


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