Since September 22, 2021, patrons of restaurants and other specified businesses and organizations in Ontario have been required to provide proof of full vaccination status and identification at the entry point of applicable premises. Between September 22 and October 22, paper versions of the COVID-19 vaccination receipt are acceptable proof of full vaccination. Commencing October 22, 2021, however, patrons will have the option of providing either a paper copy of their proof of vaccination status or a digital copy of their enhanced vaccine certificate with a unique QR (Quick Response) code.
Enhanced vaccine certificate with QR code
To prepare for October 22, Ontario announced on October 15 that the QR code and the free, made-in Ontario verification app, Verify Ontario, are available for download from the COVID-19 vaccination portal commencing October 18, 2021. Those who call the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900 may also have their enhanced vaccine certificate emailed or mailed to them.
The electronic version of the QR code may be saved to phones or a paper copy may be printed. Both electronic and paper copies must be accepted by businesses. Although the current vaccine receipt without a QR code will continue to be valid and accepted, Ontario is encouraging individuals to download the QR code because it is an easier, more secure and convenient way to have proof of vaccination verified. Identification with an individual’s name and date of birth will continue to be required together with proof of vaccination.
Ontario’s QR code is built to the SMART Health Card standard adopted by the federal government in collaboration with provinces and territories. This standard is also used for QR codes in other provinces, such as Quebec and British Columbia.
The Government of Canada logo will appear on the enhanced vaccine certificate to support international travel.
Verify Ontario app
Prior to October 22, businesses and organizations can download and become familiar with the free Verify Ontario app from the Apple App and Google Play stores. Its purpose is to make it quicker and easier for businesses to confirm if a person is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while protecting privacy. The app does not store personal information and shows only the minimum amount of information necessary to confirm vaccination. Verify Ontario will only scan and read official, government-issued QR codes, such as Ontario’s vaccine certificate and SMART Health Codes from other provinces including Quebec, British Columbia and Yukon Territory.
New exemption to proof of vaccination requirement
As previously discussed, there are several exemptions to Ontario’s proof of full vaccination requirement for patrons of restaurants and other specified businesses. On October 15, Ontario filed O. Reg. 710/21 (Regulation), which, effective immediately, amends O.Reg. 364/20, the Rules for Areas at Step 3 and at the Roadmap Exit Step. The Regulation adds an additional exemption to the proof of vaccination requirement for patrons who provide documentation that confirms that they are currently participating in a COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial authorized by Health Canada and specified in the updated “Proof of Vaccination Guidance for Businesses and Organizations under the Reopening Ontario Act” (Ontario Ministry of Health Guidance).
Permission for businesses/organizations to use electronic application to confirm full vaccination or entitlement to exemption
To support the implementation of the QR code and the Verify Ontario app, the Regulation also provides permission for businesses and organizations to use an electronic application for the sole purpose of confirming that patrons are fully vaccinated or are entitled to an exemption, provided the electronic application is listed in the Ontario Ministry of Health Guidance.