TORONTO — Ontario business groups expect strong uptake of the new provincial app used to verify patrons’ proof of COVID-19 vaccination but say they’d like financial support from the government to cover extra costs associated with it.
The app, called Verify Ontario, was made available to businesses late last week and scans QR codes that are part of enhanced vaccine certificates issued to residents.
Businesses such as restaurants, gyms and spectator sporting venues _ where proof of a shot is required _ can use the app to quickly check a patrons’ vaccination status. Previously, staff needed to check paper or digital versions of vaccine receipts at the door.
While paper records will still be accepted, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said the app is alleviating concerns about the potential for fraudulent documents.
“The app takes a lot of guesswork or fine print out of that,” Ryan Mallough, the Ontario affairs director for the federation, said in an interview.
Businesses aren’t required to use the app but Mallough said he expects it will be widely implemented.
Other businesses that aren’t required to check customers’ immunization records, like those in retail, have also expressed interest in the app, but Mallough said the group is advising them to seek legal advice before implementing proof-of-vaccination policies.
James Rilett of industry group Restaurants Canada said most eateries intend to use the app, particularly full-service restaurants, and some are already using it.
“Most feedback is positive,” he said in an interview. “For the most part, people have been found it a successful experience.”
Some operators have raised concerns about using their own personal devices for the app, Rilett said, but overall, the main complaint is that the system wasn’t ready to go a month ago, when Ontario brought in its vaccine certificate system.
Restaurants Canada said it’s seeking financial help for businesses to support additional staff needed to implement the proof-of-vaccination system.
The CFIB is also seeking similar supports for hiring costs. Mallough said the group is also getting questions about funding to help purchase company smartphones to scan QR codes, rather than use an employee’s or business owner’s phone.
Ontario Chamber of Commerce CEO Rocco Rossi said he expects the “vast majority” of business owners will use the app.
“We will take every step to get ourselves to the end of this very long tunnel and be able to, as safely as possible, reopen the economy,” he said.
The government said more than 3.7 million of the over 10 million fully vaccinated Ontarians had downloaded enhanced vaccine certificates with QR codes as of Wednesday.
The app for businesses to scan those codes had been downloaded more than 896,000 times, according to Associate Digital Government Minister Kaleed Rasheed. He said he expects download numbers to keep going up, after hearing positive feedback so far.
“I think businesses will continue to download this app because none of us wants to go back into a lockdown,” Rasheed said in an interview.
Mallough said the CFIB has been fielding questions about the requirement to scan QR codes every time at membership-based businesses that see the same customers repeatedly, and about medical exemptions that aren’t scannable in the app yet and must still be accepted on paper.
Rasheed said his ministry still awaiting details of how medical exemptions can be integrated into the app, but he said the province wanted to provide the app for businesses in the meantime.
Amir Benedikt, who owns By the Way Cafe in Toronto, said some of his staff have started using the app but added that the restaurant was still prepared to check paper vaccine receipts, especially for customers who aren’t tech savvy.
“I think that overall, it’s a good idea,” he said of the province’s vaccine certificate system. “It makes it maybe easier to control the situation.”
He noted, however, that he’d like to see more enforcement of the policy and of other public health restrictions like capacity rules _ which some business owners have publicly said they don’t plan to follow.
“If my neighbor doesn’t keep the rules, and I have to keep the rules, and people are okay with it, I wonder, ”Why am I doing it?“View link »