Ford outright rejects vaccine passports on eve of Step 3 of COVID-19 reopening

Ontario reported 143 new cases of COVID-19 and 10 more deaths linked to the illness on Thursday, while total vaccinations fell by more than 100,000 from the same day last week.

Province set to move into Step 3 of reopening at 12:01 a.m. ET

Care home workers get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in St. Michael’s Hospital, in Toronto, on Dec. 22, 2020. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ontario Premier Doug Ford firmly rejected the possibility of implementing vaccine passports on Thursday.

Ford spoke at a news conference announcing a new long-term care home in Toronto, the Runnymede Long-Term Care Home, expected to open in the summer of 2023. The centre is expected to provide 200 new long-term care spaces.

"No, we aren't doing it," he said. "We're not going to have a split society."

As for whether it will be mandatory for health-care workers to get a vaccine, Ford said while they're encouraged to do so, no one should be forced to be immunized.

"I'm not in favour of a mandatory certification and neither, by the way, is the chief medical officer," said Ford. "Folks, just please go get vaccinated."

Fords comments follow similar ones by Solicitor General Sylvia Jones a day before, who shut down the possibility of any sort of proof-of-vaccination system being introduced in the province.

If needed, Jones said, Ontarians  who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can rely on the receipt printed or emailed to them after their second shot.

Some businesses in the province have said that when Ontario enters Step 3 of its reopening plan, patrons will need to show proof of vaccination upon arrival. 

Toronto Mayor John Tory has called on the provincial government to create a voluntary system that would help individual businesses or organizations determine the vaccination status of patrons, employees and members. The Toronto Region Board of Trade has also endorsed such an initiative.

Ford said Thursday he will be addressing the question of a federal vaccination card with the prime minister later in the day.

Ontario reported 143 new cases of COVID-19 and 10 more deaths linked to the illness on Thursday, while total vaccinations fell by more than 100,000 from the same day last week.

Public health units collectively administered another 166,201 doses of COVID-19 vaccines yesterday, of which roughly 88 per cent were second shots. Last Wednesday saw more than 268,000 shots given out provincewide.

More than 57 per cent of Ontarians aged 12 and older have now had two doses of vaccines.

This morning, CBC News reported that the Ontario government is currently wading through the legal and ethical issues involved in developing vaccination policies for certain employment sectors

As of 12:01 a.m. tonight, all of Ontario's 34 public health units will move into Step 3 of the provincial government's reopening plan.

The move allows for outdoor social gatherings of up to 100 people and up to 25 people inside.

Indoor sports and recreational fitness facilities, including gyms, would be able to open again at 50 per cent capacity or a maximum of 1,000 people, whichever is less.

Indoor dining, retail and personal care would have no capacity limits as long as patrons can properly physically distance.  

Religious services and events such as weddings and funerals can also operate indoors, as long as people are following other public health measures.

Places such as museums, aquariums, casinos and bingo halls can run at 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent outdoors. Cinemas will also be allowed to open under the same restrictions (the sale of popcorn and other food will be allowed). 

A full list of what kinds of activities will be allowed in Step 3 can be found here.

Most additional deaths in 2 weeks

Meanwhile, here are some other key pandemic indicators and figures from the Ministry of Health's daily provincial update:

Seven-day average of daily cases: 155

Tests completed: 31,329

Provincewide test positivity rate: 0.5 per cent, the lowest on any day since Aug. 23, 2020

Active cases: 1,443

Patients in ICU with COVID-related illnesses: 168; 114 needed a ventilator to breathe

New deaths: 10, the most reported on a single day in two weeks. The official death toll stands at 9,275.

With files from Shanifa Nasser and Lucas Powers