Ontario's vaccine passport program might be in effect for longer than planned
Ontario may once again need to revise its timeline for easing COVID-19 restrictions, the province's Minister of Health admitted on Monday, thanks to potential threats posed by the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Health Minister and Deputy Premier Christine Elliott was asked during Question Period at Queen's Park today about the government's current plan for phasing out the use of vaccine passports by the end of March.
As it stands right now, the province is expected to start nixing capacity limits and proof-of-vaccination requirements at restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments, alongside sports facilities, gyms, casinos and bingo halls on January 17, 2022.
The elimination of mandatory vaccine passport programs at night clubs, strip clubs and sex clubs is scheduled to come next, on February 7, followed by a March 28 lifting of any "remaining public health and workplace safety measures," including mandatory face coverings indoors.
This is all plainly stated on the government's website, but so too is the caveat that these measures will only cease to be mandatory "in the absence of concerning trends in public health and health care indicators following the winter holiday months and after students return to in-class learning."
Things didn't go so well in terms of case numbers when kids broke for March Break last spring, after all, and Christmas holidays tend to involve many festive gatherings that could easily turn into super-spreader events.
It's all of the things scientists don't yet know about Omicron that pose the worst threat, however, according to Elliott.
"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 are going to need to take a look at that," she said when asked about the timeline for vaccine passports on Monday.
"We anticipate that we will need it for at least the next several months... and maybe for longer than that, once we know more about the Omicron variant.”
If the past nearly two years has taught Ontario residents anything, it's that nobody can accurately predict how and when this pandemic will finally end.
A total of 887 new cases were reported across the province this morning, 397 of them in unvaccinated individuals, 64 in those with unknown status, and 426 among people who are fully vaccinated.
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