Ontario Premier Doug Ford has finally seen the light and come to his senses.
A little more than a month ago, Ford categorically opposed an Israeli-style, province-wide vaccine passport plan. “No, we aren’t doing it, simple as that,” he said. “We aren’t going to have a split society,” he added, refusing to differentiate vaccinated from unvaccinated residents of Ontario. “No one should be forced to do anything.”
Two days ago, belatedly, he changed his mind. Following the lead of Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia, Ford unveiled a Covid-19 vaccine certificate system under which the unvaccinated will be denied access to certain non-essential businesses.
From September 22 onward, these utterly selfish recalcitrants, who are a danger to themselves and others, will not be allowed into a variety of non-essential venues, ranging from restaurants and bars to movie theatres and theatres, unless they can produce proof they have been fully vaccinated.
They will, however, be permitted to shop at grocery stores, go into personal care businesses like hair saloons and barber shops, and enter places of worship like churches, synagogues, mosques and temples.
Encouragingly enough, Ford’s announcement already has had a beneficial effect.
Vaccine bookings have more than doubled, Health Minister Christine Elliott tweeted on September 2. “We’re already seeing thousands more Ontarians roll up their sleeves, nearly half of whom are receiving their first dose,” she disclosed.
At a news conference, Ford explained his change of heart: “We need to protect our hospitals … and avoid lockdown at all costs. We want our kids in school, and our businesses to stay open.”
“We need to be proactive to avoid reactive closures,” said Ontario’s Chief Medical officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore. “Immunization is key to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our most vulnerable.”
Their comments are sound and sensible, but they beg the question why it took the government of Ontario so unconscionably long to announce this plan.
Covid-19 has proven to be a pandemic that modern science cannot vanquish in one fell swoop. Infections have been on the rise in the province despite the fact that 67 percent and 73 percent of Ontarians are fully or partially vaccinated. Today, for instance, more than 800 new cases were reported.
In the main, unvaccinated people are spreading the virus, but that’s not the only reason why this persistent pandemic has returned in waves. The Delta variant has been particularly deadly, as we have seen. And all too often, people are not wearing protective face masks, or refusing to social distance, when the situation cries out for it.
Although Ford’s vaccination passport plan is a step in the right direction, it is marred by flaws.
Non-essential spaces, like hair salons and barber shops, definitely should be off limits to the unvaccinated. Why are they different than restaurants or nightclubs?
Although the unvaccinated will not be permitted to frequent higher risk indoor spaces such as gyms, convention centers and sporting events, the certificate system does not, inexplicably, apply to employees in these settings. Why have they been granted an exemption? Everyone frequenting these places, from users to employees, should be fully vaccinated.
If Covid-19 is to be substantially contained, much less obliterated, such yawning loopholes will have to be closed immediately, lest the consequences overwhelm society sooner or later.
In the meantime, everyone will have to do their part to achieve this objective. It is a matter of life and death.