Since Sept. 22, Highlands restaurants, gyms, arenas and many community spaces have been asking guests for proof of vaccination. Now, a new App-based identification system can be used to confirm whether diners, hockey fans, gym-goers or coffee-sippers are vaccinated.
In an Oct. 15 press conference, Premier Doug Ford said the rules “mean we have the best chance to avoid being forced back into lockdowns nobody wants.” County residents can access the new QR code via covid-19.ontario.ca/ and establishments can download a scanning app through the App Store or Google Play Store.
Multiple business owners and community groups contacted by The Highlander reported a generally positive reception to the new rules. Maple Avenue Tap and Grill owner Andy Oh said he supports the certificate program, however it’s meant some guests have walked away after being asked to show receipts. “It’s affected business,” said Oh.
He added since Haliburton’s population is, on average, older, people may have more difficulty obtaining app-based certificates. “I understand what the government wants, to increase vaccination to a certain point. But here is a small town, compared to a big city,” said Oh. Diners have the option of using a QR code, considered quicker than showing a printed version. Oh said methods so far had slowed service.
Craig Belfry, director of community services for Minden Hills, said the rules have been fairly easy to enforce. The township has hired a COVID screener to assist with checks. “There’s a little bit of waiting, but people are understanding,” Belfry said.
“We’ve had good feedback from community groups who use our space.” In an Oct. 13 press conference, HKPR chief medical officer of health, Dr. Natalie Bocking, reported only one establishment in the region has been fined in an incident related to vaccine certificate inspection. HKPR declined to confirm if the establishment was located in the Highlands.
The Haliburton Highlands OPP reported one incident of a customer refusing to show proof of vaccination so far, however, the incident was resolved before officers arrived on the scene.
Capacity limits lifted for some
On Oct. 9, the provincial government removed capacity restrictions for outdoor events and indoor venues with less than 20,000 capacity. That includes sports venues such as the Minden arena.
“I think it allows us to really provide the community with the type of experience we want to be able to provide,” said Jess Jackson, Huskies’ game day operations manager. “It provides a social atmosphere I think is beneficial to the community itself.” Jackson said all fans attending games have been compliant with COVID-19 safety measures, such as masking and showing vaccine certificates.
Many in the restaurant and fitness industries say capacity limits set a doublestandard as arena seating is often more confined than tables at a restaurant, for example.
It’s expected restaurant capacity limits will be lifted in late October, however Ford urged a slower approach to easing restrictions. “We’ve seen what happens in provinces that move too quickly, and the results can be horrifying,” he said.
There are no active cases of COVID-19 in Haliburton County, and 10 unresolved cases in the HKPR region. Most are occurring in people between 20-39 years of age. Since July 1, 63 per cent of cases were unvaccinated, 20 per cent partially vaccinated and 17 per cent fully vaccinated.