Ontario’s enhanced COVID-19 vaccine certificates with QR codes now in effect

Click to play video: 'Staff at Ontario restaurants welcome QR code COVID-19 vaccine verification'
Staff at Ontario restaurants welcome QR code COVID-19 vaccine verification
WATCH ABOVE: It’s been a slow roll out ahead of the launch of Ontario’s QR code COVID-19 vaccination verification system, but it is now officially in place. Restaurants have been testing out the technology and as Katherine Ward reports, many operators say there are a lot of benefits – Oct 22, 2021

Nearly two months after the Ontario government first announced COVID-19 vaccine certificates would be needed for many indoor settings, enhanced proof-of-vaccination documents with QR codes can now be used across the province.

The proof-of-vaccination system required at many indoor public settings has been in place since Sept. 22 based on the receipts previously issued to those who have been vaccinated.

As of Wednesday, more than 3.7 million of the over 10 million fully vaccinated Ontarians had downloaded enhanced vaccine certificates with QR codes.

Recently, business owners and operators were able to download the Verify Ontario app, which will scan the QR codes on the enhanced certificates. Three findings will show up on the app: verified, invalid (either the person is partially vaccinated or it hasn’t been 14 days since the second dose), or problem (either the QR code couldn’t be scanned or the code came from a third party and it can’t be recognized).

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Verify Ontario doesn’t store information and can work without being connected to the internet, but government staff say the app should periodically be online so it can download updates. It collects basic Google analytics information, such as how many times it is used, but the data is anonymized.

Officials said they’re working on developing functions that will let people add their new vaccine certificate with the QR code to their Apple or Android wallets, but for now, people can save a screenshot to their photos or add it to files as a PDF.

Despite the rollout of the enhanced vaccine certificates, the previous versions are still being accepted for now. Regardless of the document you present, you will still need to show a piece of government-issued identification.

Ontario’s current QR code system doesn’t recognize legitimate medical exemptions yet, so those letters or forms will still need to be presented for inspection.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott previously said a process is being developed to embed medical exemptions in the code, involving public health units verifying the exemptions.

Officials with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said the app is alleviating concerns about the potential for fraudulent documents.

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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, but selectme operators have raised concerns about using their own personal devices for the app.

Click to play video: 'Step-by-step breakdown of how to get the new Ontario COVID-19 QR code proof-of-vaccination'
Step-by-step breakdown of how to get the new Ontario COVID-19 QR code proof-of-vaccination

Where can I get an enhanced vaccine certificate if I don’t have it?

You need to complete a small questionnaire on the Ontario government’s website and you will be asked to verify some information from your health card before being provided a PDF of your enhanced certificate with a QR code. Click here to access the website.

If you’re unable to retrieve your certificate or do not have a printer, call Ontario’s vaccine contact centre at 1-833-943-3900 for assistance.

Where are vaccine certificates required?

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.

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What kind of ID will be accepted in conjunction with the receipt and/or QR code, or 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.

What if you’re not an Ontario resident?

If you’re visiting Ontario and haven’t been vaccinated in the province, proof of full vaccination from wherever you live along with government identification will be accepted under the program.

When won’t you be asked to show your certificate and who is exempt from the program?

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 are generally exempt.

Children under 12, who currently can’t be vaccinated against COVID-19, aren’t subjected to screening under Ontario’s regulations. For children under the age of 18 who will be entering an indoor space for organized sports, they are exempt as well.

When it comes to funerals, weddings and other religious ceremonies or rites, proof of vaccination isn’t 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.

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

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

What are the fines and how will enforcement work?

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

— with files from The Canadian Press

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