Toronto

Ford's cabinet to debate COVID-19 vaccine passport plan after first proposal rejected: source

Premier Doug Ford is meeting with his ministers Tuesday afternoon to deliberate on the details of a COVID-19 vaccine passport system for Ontario, a source told CBC-Radio Canada, after an initial plan was rejected by cabinet last night.

Details of the plan expected to be announced this week, source tells CBC/Radio-Canada

It has been more than a month since Premier Doug Ford held a COVID-19 briefing and took questions from the media. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Premier Doug Ford is meeting with his ministers Tuesday afternoon to deliberate on the details of a COVID-19 vaccine passport system for Ontario, a source told CBC/Radio-Canada, after an initial plan was rejected by cabinet last night.

A source with knowledge of the discussions couldn't say specifically when a plan may be finalized, but added that it will be announced sometime in the coming days.

Last week, sources told CBC News that Ontario intends to move ahead with some sort of proof-of-vaccination system, and that it could be revealed as early as today. The sources spoke on condition of confidentiality because they weren't authorized to speak publicly.

They said that while some Progressive Conservative cabinet members are opposed to a vaccine passport, the program will ultimately go ahead. 

Provincial chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore had been scheduled to hold a news conference Tuesday afternoon, however that was cancelled just after 1 p.m. In a statement, provincial spokesperson Alexandra Hilkene said the move was made at Moore's request "in light of the government's ongoing work on a proof of vaccination certificate."

Pressure has mounted on Ford's government in recent weeks to institute some sort of vaccine passport as the province navigates a fourth wave of the pandemic driven by the delta variant.

Though Ford once held near daily COVID-19 briefings earlier in the pandemic, the premier has not faced questions from media in more than a month. Millions of students in the province are also set to return to school next week. 

Many local medical officers of health, as well as mayors of some of Ontario's biggest cities and independent medical experts, have publicly joined the chorus for vaccine passports, saying a clear, effective provincewide system is needed to avoid confusion and curb the current wave.

Quebec, B.C. and Manitoba have already released plans for their own versions of a vaccine passport system.

Until recently, Ontario has resisted the idea, with Ford saying he doesn't want a "split society."

The province has also said Ontarians have the option of printing out their electronic vaccination receipts if needed, though critics have pointed out that printouts are susceptible to forgery.

7-day average of cases tops 700

Meanwhile, Ontario reported 525 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, while the seven-day average of daily cases topped 700, its highest point in nearly three months.

Of the 460 cases today with a known vaccination status:

  • 326, or about 71 per cent, were unvaccinated.
  • 43, or nine per cent, had a single dose.
  • 91, or roughly 20 per cent, had two doses.

The province's raw data on the vaccination status of cases does not include breakdowns by age. That, and the fact that the populations of vaccinated and unvaccinated people in Ontario differ greatly by both size and demographics, are important caveats to note.

As of yesterday, there were 336 people with COVID-19 in hospital. Of those, 158 were being treated for COVID-related critical illnesses in intensive care. 

The Ministry of Health also reported the deaths of five more people with COVID-19. A ministry spokesperson said in an email that three of the deaths happened more than two months ago, and were included in the update after a data cleanup by Public Health Ontario.

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

Seven-day rolling average of daily cases: 702, the highest it has been since June 8, 2021.

Tests in the last 24 hours: 19,643, with a provincewide positivity rate of 3.1 per cent.

Active cases: 5,868.

Patients in ICU with COVID-related illnesses: 158; 93 needed a ventilator to breathe.

Death toll: 9,503.

Vaccinations: 31,176 doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered by public health units on Sunday. About 76.4 per cent of eligible Ontarians, or those aged 12 and older, have now had two doses.

Paid sick leave program extended

The province also announced Tuesday it's extending its paid sick leave program, which was scheduled to end on Sept. 25, but in a statement, Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton said that date is being pushed back to Dec. 31 because of the spread of the delta variant. 

"With the majority of people in Ontario now vaccinated, our province is in a better position than before, but we must continue to stay cautious and ensure we are taking all the steps necessary to protect the health and safety of everyone in Ontario," McNaughton said.

Meanwhile, a southwestern Ontario hospital says it has opened a pediatric clinic as it expects a recent surge of COVID-19 cases in children to continue.

The Windsor Regional Hospital says the Paediatric Urgent Medical Assessment Clinic is intended for COVID-19 assessments for those aged 17 and younger.

The hospital says the goal of the clinic is to handle a predicted rise in cases.

They are also hoping it will divert patients from the emergency department.

The hospital says the clinic will offer COVID-19 testing, urgent care medical assessment and vaccinations to those born in 2009 or earlier seven days a week.

Children born in 2010 and later are not approved to be vaccinated.

With files from Mathieu Simard, Adam Carter and The Canadian Press

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