Ontario announces vax certificates to end March 1

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO – Ontario is ending its vaccine certificate system on March 1, when capacity limits will lift as well, Premier Doug Ford announced Monday, though he said masking requirements will remain for now.

Ford insisted the step is not a result of pressure from anti-vaccine mandate protesters.

“Today’s announcement is not because of what’s happening in Ottawa or Windsor, but despite it,” he said.

“The extraordinary measures that we introduced during this pandemic were always intended as a last resort. I stood at this very podium and promised you that these tools would only be used for as long as they were absolutely necessary and not one day longer. The removal of these measures has always been our objective.”

Public health indicators have been improving, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore presented a plan to lift the COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine certificates, Ford said, a plan that has been in the works since before protesters began occupying downtown Ottawa.

Ontario is fast-tracking previously announced steps to lift restrictions, including moving the next step of its reopening plan up to Thursday instead of next Monday.

On that day, social gathering limits will increase to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors, while capacity limits will be removed in places such as restaurants, bars, gyms and movie theatres. Capacity at businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies and retail stores will be set at the number of people who can maintain a distance of two metres.

Less than two weeks later, on March 1, capacity limits will be lifted in all remaining indoor public settings and proof-of-vaccination requirements will end for all settings.

A vaccine mandate for staff in long-term care homes will remain, Ford said.

The province also announced that youth aged 12 to 17 can book booster doses of a COVID-19 vaccine as of 8 a.m. on Friday.