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Ontario ends restaurant, gym vax mandates Tuesday
March 1, 2022
Antonella Artuso

One of the most controversial public health measures of the pandemic -- vaccine passports -- will no longer be mandated by the province as of Tuesday.

Dine-in restaurants, gyms, theatres and other indoor public settings won’t be required to check QR codes, although individual businesses can still choose to demand proof of vaccination from their patrons.

Premier Doug Ford, who first opposed vaccine passports and then brought them in, said he has been following the recommendations of Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health.

“Now we’re taking the advice of Dr. Moore on getting rid of them,” Ford said Monday. “Still be cautious. This isn’t going to be the Wild West. Be cautious. We aren’t through this yet.”

The next major public health measure to disappear will likely be mandatory masking in public places, including schools.

“What I’m hearing (is masking mandates could end) over the next few weeks, maybe after March Break when the kids get back, but we’ll see,” Ford said. “I don’t want to set a date.”

Ontario reported 1,605 new cases of COVID-19 Monday, although the province no longer conducts widespread testing for the virus.

A key indicator that the Omicron wave has not only peaked but receded was the generally declining number of patients in intensive care with COVID-19, reported as 279 individuals Monday, including 171 on ventilators.

Ontario has fully vaccinated 86% of the eligible population aged five and older.

Public health data notes 7% of the eligible population 12 and over remains unvaccinated.

Ontario MPP Rick Nicholls, who was removed from the PC caucus by Ford after refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 for personal reasons, asked if the government intended to support a federal vaccination passport.

Government House Leader Paul Calandra said the pandemic measures helped Ontario fare better than almost any other jurisdiction in the world, and he would have hoped that Nicholls would be celebrating the removal of most pandemic restrictions.

“I think that’s good news for the people of the province of Ontario,” Calandra said.