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New details released on Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine certificates, non-compliance fines start at $750

Click to play video: 'Ontario government reveals more details ahead of COVID-19 vaccine certificate launch' Ontario government reveals more details ahead of COVID-19 vaccine certificate launch
WATCH ABOVE: With less than a week to go, the Ontario government has revealed more details about the launch of the COVID-19 vaccine certificate program. Critics are already saying it has too many loopholes, is too difficult for businesses, and is susceptible to fraud. Matthew Bingley reports.

With just more than a week to go until COVID-19 vaccine certificates will be required to access several indoor settings in Ontario, the provincial government has released additional details on the program, exemptions from it and fines for non-compliance.

As of Sept. 22, residents looking to visit the following indoor settings will need to show proof of being fully vaccinated for at least 14 days or a legitimate medical exemption along with a piece of identification: Restaurants, bars, nightclubs, concert venues, gyms and fitness facilities, theatres, cinemas, racetracks, waterparks, TV and film productions with studio audiences, sports venues, casinos and gaming establishments, meeting and event spaces, strip clubs and bathhouses.

Beginning on Oct. 22, a QR code-based mobile application is set to be rolled out across Ontario for use by residents and businesses in place of the current vaccination receipts. For those who don’t have mobile devices, enhanced paper vaccine certificates with a QR code will be issued by the Ontario government (receipts can be downloaded through the Ontario government’s website and if residents don’t have a computer or printer, they can call 1-833-943-3900).

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Read more: Ontario government to require COVID-19 vaccine certificates for many indoor public settings

If someone is a resident outside of Ontario, proof of full vaccination along with government identification will be accepted under the program.

Officials announced on Tuesday defined exemptions for being asked to produce proof of vaccination when entering the above indoor settings, including people who solely need to use a washroom, pay for an order, accessing an outdoor area that can only be done through an indoor way, placing or picking up a to-go order, purchasing admission, buying something at a retail store or if there’s a health and safety-related reason.

When asked about varying regulations and who will monitor patrons, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said there’s less of a concern surrounding most of those reasons.

“As you go indoors, you’ll be wearing a mask. So our typical contact tracing is 15 minutes or less would not be a high-risk contact if you had COVID, and so hence the reason short visits indoors … are allowed and no one is going to be monitoring that exact amount of time. It’s based on best evidence,” Dr. Kieran Moore told reporters Tuesday afternoon.

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Children under 12, who currently can’t be vaccinated against COVID-19, will be exempt from screening requirements. For children under the age of 18 who will be entering an indoor space for organized sports, they will be exempt from screening as well.

When it comes funerals, weddings and other religious ceremonies or rites, proof of vaccination will not be required so long as that person is not going to any associated social gatherings (such as receptions). Specific to funerals is an exemption to attend a social gathering if it’s being held in a funeral home or another facility approved under the Funeral, Burial and Cremation Services Act.

For those who are citing a medical exemption, they won’t be required under the program to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test. However, there’s nothing under the regulation stopping businesses from enacting such a policy. Government staff encouraged business owners who want to enact additional measures to consult a lawyer.

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According to an Ontario Ministry of Health memo on medical exemptions, examples of reasons included severe allergies, anaphylaxis, myocarditis or pericarditis. Time-limited exemptions will also be granted if a person is receiving monoclonal antibody therapy or convalescent plasma therapy.

Read more: Why is Ontario developing its own vaccine passport app?

Officials said there won’t be an onus on businesses to verify the legitimacy of a medical exemption that’s being provided. They also added work is ongoing to introduce a standardized form for medical professionals.

When examining proof-of-vaccination documentation, business operators and employees were encouraged to match the person’s name and birthday against the identification they produce. They were also encouraged to see that two doses of a vaccine and that it has been at least 14 days since the final dose.

One of the following forms of identification will need to be shown in conjunction with a vaccine receipt or a medical exemption: Driver’s licence, birth certificate, passport, citizenship card, Ontario photo card or other government-issued identification, Indian status card or Indigenous membership card or a permanent resident card.

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Under the Ontario government’s regulation, fines for individuals who don’t comply with screening or those who present fraudulent documents will begin at $750 and fines for businesses will begin at $1,000.

Ontario Premier and Deputy Health Minister said bylaw officers, and potentially police if there’s a safety concern, will be conducting enforcement of the regulations.

“If any point they feel threatened, we want them to call 911 as soon as possible to make sure our police officers can assist,” she said, adding she doesn’t anticipate a large surge in calls.

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