ontario removing vaccine passport

Doug Ford says Ontario will soon ditch vaccine passports and people are worried

Ontario is close to removing vaccine passport requirements from bars, restaurants, gyms and all other indoor spaces considered high risk for the spread of COVID-19, according to Premier Doug Ford, who this morning declared a new state of emergency in response to disruptive anti-vaccine mandate protests in Ottawa and Windsor.

"Today, we're on track to very soon remove almost all restrictions for businesses as part of our reopening plan," said Ford during a press conference Friday morning.

"And we heard from [Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health] Dr. Moore last week, and again yesterday, that he is now working on a plan that will allow us to remove the vaccine passport system."

"My friends, this is great news. It's a sign of just how far we have come together in this fight," continued the premier before launching into a spiel about making tough decisions, protecting hospitals and making "unthinkable sacrifices."

"Watching businesses close. Livelihoods lost. Freedoms restricted. None of this has been easy. People are frustrated. They're scared. They're angry. And I know these frustrations have reached a boiling point for many Canadians. The result is what we're now seeing in various cities across our province."

When asked later on during the presser if he was scrapping proof-of-vaccination laws due to the out-of-control truck convoy protests, Ford made clear that he "will never ever negotiate with people that break the law."

"We put this plan together well before this protests started," said Ford on Friday, noting that he will continue to take his advice from Dr. Moore and that he has "always made sure our decisions are based on health and on science."

"It's been a plan that we've been working on for months... We're waiting for recommendations from Dr. Moore. I think we all heard very clearly last week and this week that Dr. Moore, you know, wants to move forward with these measures."

Moore did indicate during a press conference of his own on Thursday that the province was exploring the easing of measures such as mandatory masks and vaccination certificates.

"We can now see that the Omicron peak is behind us. We're in a very good position to reconsider timelines," said Ontario's top doc on Thursday. "The evidence is showing we're making remarkable improvement in all the key metrics in Ontario."

A date for the expected change has yet to be revealed, but some evidence suggests that an announcement could come down as soon as Monday.

Adding credence to these rumours of an imminent end to vaccine passports is what some are calling a "secret recording" of the premier in which Ford appears to say "We're pulling these passports. We're gunna get back to normal."

"I can't get you the exact date, but it's going to be very soon. I'll be speaking over the next few days," says the premier (or someone who sounds exactly like him) in an apparent phone conversation.

"Friday I'm going to put out a statement. Monday I'll be giving some dates. And we're going to move forward."

While pleased to hear that cases are falling enough for Ontario to consider reopening further, perhaps earlier than expected, some in the province are leery about the prospect of lifting proof-of-vaccine requirements for indoor public spaces.

"The absence of a vaccine passport system will make restaurants and other venues much less safe," wrote one Twitter user in response to the news. "Reconsidering my decision to start going out again in light of this move by Ford to make these places more dangerous to visit."

"Removing the vaccine passport, at this early stage, is the dumbest goddamn thing I've ever heard. [Doug Ford] give your head a shake!!!" wrote another.

Others suggest that revoking vaccine passports at this time sends the wrong message to protesters and their supporters.

"So dumb question: if Ford is removing the vaccine passport and mandatory vaccination policies...isn't the message that the convoy worked? Isn't that *encouraging* more convoys in the future?" asked one local.

I mean... protesters seem to think so. They're claiming victory all over the internet right now.

If the lifting of restrictions is indeed expedited as rumoured, Ontarians could see capacity limits nixed at businesses and events, as well as an increase to social gathering limits from five inside, ten outdoors to 25 people inside and 100 people out.

Right now, based on the Roadmap to Reopening's (rarely followed) 21-day-per-stage rule, all current restrictions (announced in late January during yet another lockdown period) are meant to last until 12:01 a.m. on Feb. 21.

When Ford announced the latest three-part reopening plan last month, his government was careful not to give any timelines for the removal of masking or vaccine passport requirements.

"Please note that enhanced proof of vaccination, mandatory face coverings and other requirements will continue to apply in existing settings until further notice," announced the province when revealing the plan on Jan. 20.

As of today, under the third phase of reopening, the government still has it listed on its website that "proof of vaccination will be maintained in existing settings in addition to other regular measures."

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