Ontario Premier Doug Ford is slated to announce his government’s impending proof-of-vaccination system — commonly called a COVID-19 vaccine passport — for the province today, his office has confirmed.
The news comes after Ford and his cabinet spent two days deliberating details of the plan. A source with knowledge of the discussions told CBC/Radio-Canada that an initial proposal was rejected on Monday.
The announcement is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET. It will be the first time Ford has publicly taken questions from the media in more than a month.
According to his office, Ford will be joined by Minister of Health Christine Elliott, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore and Kaleed Rasheed, associate minister of digital government.
Sources said last week that some members of the Progressive Conservative cabinet were against the province implementing its own vaccine certificate system like the ones introduced in Quebec, B.C. and Manitoba.
Until recently, Ford and Elliott had both repeatedly said that Ontario would not follow the initiatives taken in other provinces. Earlier this summer, Ford told reporters that he thought a vaccine passport would create a “split society.”
But pressure on Ford and his government from a myriad of physicians, infectious disease specialists and business groups to institute such a system has mounted as the province navigates a fourth wave of the pandemic.
Millions of students in Ontario are also set to return to classrooms next week, with children born in 2010 and later still not eligible to be vaccinated against the virus.
The highly infectious delta variant continues to circulate in Ontario, although indicators show its spread has slowed in recent weeks.
As of Tuesday, 76.3 per cent of eligible Ontarians had received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines, or roughly 67.4 per cent of Ontario’s total population.
14 hospitals announce joint vaccination policy
Meanwhile, the leaders of 14 hospitals in Ontario’s central region have come up with a joint COVID-19 vaccination policy that they say will ultimately lead to unpaid leave or termination for unvaccinated staff.
The CEOs and chiefs of staff have sent a letter to staff outlining their hospitals’ shared policy, which includes mandatory vaccination for new employees.
As of Sept. 7, all employees, credentialed staff, contractors, students and volunteers will have to provide proof of full vaccination or undergo regular testing and an education session.
That’s in line with a directive from the province last month that mandates employers in health and education to have staff disclose vaccination status by that date or face the education session and testing requirements.
The hospitals, including Humber River Hospital, Mackenzie Health and Trillium Health Partners, will have a “progressive plan” that will ultimately see harsher consequences for unvaccinated employees, with facilities enacting varying deadlines.
The CEOs say if staff are still unvaccinated and without a medical exemption by those dates, it will lead to “unpaid leave and/or termination for cause.”
“COVID-19 cases are starting to increase again in our communities and across the province with the most severe impacts affecting those who are unvaccinated,” the letter reads.
“As a health system, we need to do everything possible to safeguard our patients, families, communities and those who provide their care.”
The other hospitals involved are:
- Georgian Bay General Hospital.
- Halton Healthcare Services Corporation.
- Headwaters Health Care Centre.
- Oak Valley Health.
- North York General Hospital.
- Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital.
- Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre.
- Southlake Regional Health Centre.
- Stevenson Memorial Hospital.
- Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care.
- William Osler Health System.