Ontario’s Vaccine Passport Program May Get Extended Because Of The New Omicron Variant

The Minister of Health says they may have to “reconsider” lifting restrictions.

Toronto Associate Editor
Ontario’s Vaccine Passport May Get Extended Because Of The New Omicron Variant

Ontario's minister of health admitted yesterday that the province may not be able to lift certain COVID-19 restrictions in the next month or so like the government originally planned for.

In October, Ontario laid out a rough timeline for when it could start easing capacity limits and restrictions related to its vaccine certificate program across the province.

The province said it would consider lifting proof of vaccination requirements in places like restaurants, bars, bingo halls and casinos by January 17. However, in a press release, it noted this would only be possible if there were no "concerning trends in public health" after the winter months.

Health Minister Christine Elliott hinted that the timeline could change during a question period at Queen's Park on December 6, given the new Omicron variant starting to take hold in Ontario.

"We have the plan that we put in place several months ago, but we do have this new variant, we do have Omicron among us right now," Elliott said. "We're planning to start lifting things, but, if this Omicron variant circulates widely, and if it's as virulent as it has been in other jurisdictions, we're going to need to take a look at that."

The government planned to lift proof of vaccination requirements in high-risk places like nightclubs and strip clubs by February 7 and lift proof of vaccination requirements for venues like concert halls, sporting events and cinemas by March 28. The requirement for face coverings in indoor public spaces is also set to be lifted at this time.

"Dr. [Kieran] Moore has said that from day one, that if there is a major change in circumstances we will have to reconsider as we're reconsidering every step along the way," Elliott said. "But right now, we don't have the pertinent information that we need in order to make a decision. I anticipate that will become evident in the next several months as we see what happens in South Africa and other jurisdictions."

The first cases of the Omicron variant in the country were discovered in Ontario on November 28.

The scientific director of Ontario's Science Advisory Table, Dr. Peter Juni, told Narcity in a recent interview that it is doubtful vaccine certificates would be lifted in the new year.

"The proof of vaccination won't be lifted at the beginning of January," Juni said. "You don't have to be a prophet to understand that it's impossible to lift it now, this would be foolhardy if we did so."

Juni added that Moore, the chief medical officer of health, would look at the public health situation in Ontario at that time to determine if COVID-19 health measures could be lifted.

"It's very obvious right now where we are that Dr. Moore will not lift any requirements for vaccine certificates, etc."

Health Canada has a robust website with all the latest information on COVID-19 vaccines and can answer any questions you may have.

Alex Arsenych
Toronto Associate Editor