Omicron variant may delay start of Ontario’s vaccine passport wind down

Original plan was to start lifting the vaccine requirement on Jan. 17, 2022

The new Omicron variant may throw a wrench into the province’s plan to begin to lift vaccine passport requirements at some businesses next month.

In the Ontario legislature on Monday, Health Minister Christine Elliott acknowledged the new variant could change those plans.

“It was always subject to the caveat that if there is a situation such as a variant that we don’t know about, we don’t know what is going to happen with it, we’ll have to re-evaluate,” Elliott said.

“We’re planning to start lifting things but if this Omicron variant circulates widely and if it’s as virulent as it has been in other jurisdictions, we are going to need to take a look at that,” she said. “We anticipate that we will need it for at least the next several months, if everything is all right, and maybe for longer than that, once we know more about the Omicron variant.”

Under the original plan, the Ford government is planning to start lifting the vaccine requirement on Jan.17, 2022, in gyms, bars and restaurants.

The plan calls for virtually all public health measures to be lifted by the end of March 2022.

In a statement issued after Question Period, NDP leader Andrea Horwath said the premier’s end date for vaccination certificates “always was a dog whistle to anti-vaxxers.”

She called on the Ford government to “show strong leadership” and stop “pandering to anti-vaxxers.”

Ontario public health officials have so far confirmed 11 cases of Omicron in the province.