Vaccine certificate deadline in jeopardy due to Omicron variant

The government has been urged to extend the deadline further into 2022 – but businesses are not happy

Vaccine certificate deadline in jeopardy due to Omicron variant

The possibility of having vaccine certificates lifted for businesses is at risk amid the outbreak of the newly detected Omicron variant in Ontario. The province's plan to safely re-open and manage COVID-19 in the long-term run was supposed to see vaccine requirements ditched in restaurants and bars, casinos, and recreational facilities, among others starting January 17.

However, Health Minister Christine Elliott has now announced that the province is still planning to ease some curbs – dependant on the circulation and severity of the Omicron variant.

"We're planning to start lifting things but if this Omicron variant circulates widely, and if it’s a virulent as it has been in other jurisdictions, we are going to need to take a look at that," she said.

According to Elliott, there is still not enough "pertinent information" so far on the new COVID-19 strain to make a decision.

"I anticipate that will become evident over the next several months as we see what happens in South Africa and other jurisdictions," she said.

Read more: Bill 27: Right to disconnect passes in Ontario

Opposition leader Andrea Horwath is already calling on Premier Doug Ford to "stop appealing to anti-vaxxers, follow the science, and continue use of vaccine certificates beyond January 17."

"The premier needs to step up here and provide some strong leadership," she said. “Ontarians have been doing their part, the vast majority of Ontarians have been doing their part. But they need leadership and public health measures to fight the fourth wave.”

Previously, the province had to delay by 28 days its plan on November 15 to lift capacity limits in some high-risk settings due to increasing COVID-19 cases. Ontario has reported at least 13 cases of the new Omicron variant, according to provincial data. The new COVID-19 strain is reported to be more transmissible than the previous ones.

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