Ontario to lift proof of vaccine requirement in March; accelerates reopening

The Ford government has announced that the province’s vaccine passport system will come to an end on March 1.

Ontario is accelerating the lifting of most public health measures and doing away with proof of vaccination requirements, following the lead of some other Canadian provinces.

The Ford government announced Monday that the province’s proof of vaccination requirement will come to an end on March 1.

On Feb. 17, capacity limits at indoor settings where proof of vaccination is required will be lifted, and large spectator venues can return to 50 per cent capacity. The remaining capacity limits are set to be eased on March 1 and will coincide with end of proof of vaccination requirements. (see full list below)

Premier Doug Ford made the announcement in a news conference on Monday morning, alongside Health Minister Christine Elliott and chief medical officer Dr. Kieran Moore. Ford says the move is based on recommendations from Dr. Moore.

“Given how well Ontario has done in the Omicron wave we are able to fast track our reopening plan,” said Ford. “I think we are going in the right direction, I’m confident if we continue moving down this path there won’t be a reason for (proof of vaccination).”

Businesses and other settings may choose to continue to require proof vaccination if they wish to do so.

The province has yet to provide any timeline for ending masking requirements but says a timeline to lift them will come later.


Ford says the decision to lift restrictions is not being made because of the upcoming provincial election or because of the recent anti-mandate protests in Ottawa and Windsor.

“This plan was in place long before the protesters were out there,” Ford said. “Let me be very clear, we’re moving in this direction because it’s safe to do so.”

NDP opposition leader Andrea Horwath is accusing the premier of placating to anti-mandate protesters and says that proof of vaccination requirements still serve a purpose.

“We want Ontario to be fully open when it’s safe, and to stay that way, including restaurants and gyms, and especially schools,” said Horwath in a statement. “Vaccine certificates are helping keep everything open and protecting us all.”

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Horwath says she suspects the announcement “is all about the election in June. That’s what makes it so wrong-headed and so disappointing.”

Both Ford and Dr. Moore pointed to improving COVID indicators, such as declining ICU and hospital numbers, as well as Ontario’s vaccination rate as the reasoning for the move. They also cited the province’s test positivity rate, which has gone from over 30 per cent to around 12 per cent since the start of January.

“Our vaccination numbers speak for themselves,” Moore said during the news conference. “As a result we no long need the proof of vaccination. In our estimation, given where we are in the epidemic, as of March 1st it will no longer be necessary.”

Some health experts have recommended extending the proof of vaccination to three doses given the waning protection from two doses against the Omicron variant.

Liberal leader Steven Del Duca says he is okay with the new plan put forth by the Ford government.

“I am comfortable with accelerating the timeline by a short period of time,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean our work is done, we still need to be responsible.”

Measures being lifted on Feb. 17:

  • Increasing social gathering limits to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors
  • Increasing organized public event limits to 50 people indoors, with no limit outdoors
  • Removing capacity limits in the following indoor public settings where proof of vaccination is required, including but not limited to: Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments without dance facilities; Non-spectator areas of sports and recreational fitness facilities, including gyms; Cinemas; Meeting and event spaces, including conference centres or convention centres; Casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments; Indoor areas of settings that choose to opt-in to proof of vaccination requirements
  • Allowing 50 per cent of the usual seating capacity at sports arenas
  • Allowing 50 percent of the usual seating capacity for concert venues and theatres
  • Increasing indoor capacity limits to 25 per cent in the remaining higher-risk settings where
    proof of vaccination is required, including nightclubs, restaurants where there is dancing, as
    well as bathhouses and sex clubs
  • Increasing capacity limits for indoor weddings, funerals or religious services, rites, or
    ceremonies to the number of people who can maintain two metres physical distance.
    Capacity limits are removed if the location opts-in to use proof of vaccination or if the
    service, rite, or ceremony is occurring outdoors


Measures lifting on March 1

  • Lifting capacity limits in all remaining indoor
    public settings
  • Lifting proof of vaccination requirements for all settings at this time. Businesses and other settings may choose to continue to require proof of vaccination

Under the previous guidelines, further public health measures were to be lifted on Feb. 21 with remaining capacity limits set to be eased on Mar. 14.

“We have to decide as a society how many public health measures we want just to recommend and maintain in a legal fashion to limit the spread of the viruses,” said Moore two weeks ago. “I think that discussion should happen soon.”

Moore confirmed last week during his weekly COVID-19 briefing that dates for further lifting restrictions on businesses and social gatherings could be reviewed this week. He acknowledged that the timeline could be moved up, saying “our situation has improved,” adding that the government is committed to properly notifying businesses ahead of time if such a decision is made.

Along with Ford, Moore has shifted his pandemic messaging in recent weeks, suggesting it’s time for Ontarians to “learn to live” with the virus. Moore has said masking will likely be the final measure to go and said the province would need to reassess the vaccine passport system moving forward.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said last Wednesday that Ontario would not be following the lead of other jurisdictions that have already begun lifting proof-of-vaccination rules and intend to end masking rules soon.

“We believe that masking is going to be important for some time to come,” Elliott said at a news conference in Kitchener. “We always said that we were going to take a very cautious, phased, prudent approach to open up, and that’s the path that we’re going to follow.”

Alberta removed vaccine passports to access non-essential businesses last week, and will end a mask requirement for children under 12 this week.

Saskatchewan became the first province in Canada to announce it was removing all COVID-19 measures and will no longer require that people provide vaccine passports this week. It is also ending its indoor mask mandate at the end of February.

Québec will loosen specific public health measures across the province by Mar. 14, except for mask mandates and the vaccine passport system.

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