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COVID-19 cases rising again; province rolls out new vaccine passport system

Waterloo Region is seeing a slight uptick in COVID-19 cases even as the province’s new vaccine certificate program comes into effect.

At midweek, there were 216 active cases, up from 189 a week earlier. Wednesday also marked the start of the vaccine passport system, under which people will have to show proof of vaccination to access certain places and activities. Children under the age of 12 are exempt.

Businesses in the region are among the groups preparing for the new program, training staff on how to check for vaccination status, the president of the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce said at the region’s weekly pandemic briefing September 17.

 “Our group have been lobbying for the vaccine certificates for many, many weeks, saying this needs to be the next tool in the toolkit. That would ensure we never have to have a general lockdown, which we have had to have several times and it’s been devastating for business and for communities all the way through,” said Ian McLean.

“We need to be incorporating this vaccine certificate. It is essential so we can keep open schools and businesses. We are in constant dialogue with the provincial government and want the provincial government to fast-track the digital portion of this. It will be very difficult for businesses to use the paper versions – it’s more labour intensive.”

The business community is worried another lockdown could force many to close their doors permanently or face other hardships, he added.

In a statement released Tuesday, Premier Doug Ford acknowledged the pushback against vaccine certificates.

“Ontario is set to introduce its own vaccine certificate this Wednesday to enter certain higher-risk businesses and settings. There are a lot of people who are concerned about this policy, and I want you to know that I hear you. I understand your concerns about protecting your civil liberties and right to privacy. While many fully vaccinated people like myself share these concerns, the greater concern is having to shut down again or experience a sudden surge in cases like in Alberta and Saskatchewan,” he said.

“This pandemic remains an emergency and there are real-world consequences of not acting. We must continue to do everything we can to protect our hard-fought progress so that we can provide businesses the stability they need and deserve. We need to do everything in our power to avoid future lockdowns and closures. That is why we are bringing in these exceptional measures on a temporary basis and will end them as soon as they can be responsibly removed.”

The province’s QR code and verification app won’t come into effect until October 22, a month from now. To retrieve vaccination records to enter certain establishments residents must go to the provincial website and save or print their record to show proof of COVID-19 vaccine. Before entering non-essential settings, establishments will be required to verify you using government-issued identification alongside your vaccine certificate.

The vaccination certificate system arrives even as the region sets an important inoculation milestone.

“The majority of patients admitted due to COVID-19 are unvaccinated, getting vaccinated protects you and your community, and those not able to get a vaccine. Over 81 per cent of eligible residents in Waterloo Region are vaccinated, this is an impressive milestone,” said regional Chair Karen Redman.

Public health officials are currently monitoring eight outbreaks, up from six a week earlier.

 “We are seeing a slowly increasing trend over time in our daily case rates, especially in those who have not been vaccinated. Vaccines are changing the pandemic, but the severity of the Delta variant cannot be underestimated, public health measures are still very important,” said medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang.

The numbers are trending upward in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph, with the midweek total at 181 active cases, up from 116 a week earlier. The number of fatalities since the pandemic began sits at 127, unchanged in the past week.

The province continues to see growth in the total number of cases, with the tally now at 580,800, up about 5,000 in the past week.

There have been 9,663 deaths attributed to the virus – up 39 over the week before – representing a mortality rate of 1.7 per cent. The ministry reports 565,000 cases (97.3 per cent) have been resolved.

The latest numbers from Health Canada show 45,500 active cases nationwide, up about 3,000 from a week earlier. The cumulative total of confirmed cases now stands at 1,586,000, with 27,488 related deaths, a mortality rate of 1.8 per cent.

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