Starting this March, when dining out or seeing a movie with friends, you won’t be sure the people you are rubbing shoulders with are vaccinated.
This is because of the Ford government’s decision to scrap the vaccine passport system for non-essential businesses starting March 1. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore said the move was made because of improvements in key public health indicators, such as hospitalization rates and the number of people on ventilators.
Premier Rob Ford was hesitant to introduce a vaccine passport back in September 2021, and has indicated in the past that it would be a temporary measure.
“Like all of you I’ve waited a long time for this news, but please never doubt that the steps we took together, as difficult as they were, were absolutely necessary and saved tens of thousands of lives,” Ford said in the announcement.
Opposition leader Andrea Horwath is concerned that the province is moving too fast and that the government may have ulterior motives for ending the certificate system so soon.
“The only people asking for passports to be cancelled are anti-vaxxers and occupiers,” said Horwath. “The request to scrap vaccine certificates isn’t coming from small businesses, health care experts, or working people. This is Doug Ford caving to anti-vax politics.”
Ford says the decision is based purely on the latest data and science.
“Today’s announcement is not because of what’s happening in Ottawa or Windsor but despite it,” Ford said.
The announcement was met with appreciation from business owners large and small, whose profits have been impacted by both the passport system and capacity limits, which are also set to be lifted on March 1. Some independent businesses are skeptical about the decision and will continue to require proof of vaccination, despite not being legally obligated to do so.
There are many reasons some businesses may be more inclined to continue the passport system, such as if the owner or some employees are at high risk from Covid, or possibly even family or friends of staff.
Hamilton’s medical officer, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, says she is cautiously optimistic about lifting Covid restrictions like vaccine passports and masking.
She also says that businesses should make an individual decision on whether or not to continue asking for proof of vaccination.