All 64,000 employees of the Ontario Public Service (OPS) will be required to get vaccinated or else submit to regular coronavirus testing, the provincial government said Thursday.
In a memo sent out to OPS employees, the government said all members of the public service will have to be fully inoculated against COVID-19 or advise of a medical reason why they cannot be vaccinated.
Those who are not vaccinated will have to submit to an educational session and undertake regular testing.
The policy is the same to that announced by Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore for health-care workers and other sectors earlier this week.
“Throughout the pandemic, we have taken every step necessary to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of Ontarians,” Treasury Board President Prabmeet Sarkaria said in a statement.
“We continue to encourage all eligible Ontarians to get vaccinated. That is why our government fully supports the mandatory vaccination and testing policy being developed by the Ontario Public Service.”
Whereas many OPS employees have been working from home since the pandemic started, the region is planning a gradual return to workplaces for those who have been operating remotely.
The policy will apply to all public servants working in ministries or commission public bodies, Ontario said.
The region did not announce a timeline for the policy, however, said that more details will be coming soon.
The decision comes the same day as the Ford government’s deadline for members of the Progressive Conservative caucus to get vaccinated or face the boot.
It additionally follows an announcement earlier today by the City of Toronto that all of its employees will have to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 30 and an announcement last week that all employees of the federal government will have to be vaccinated within the coming months.
Some 31,000 members of the OPS are currently working in-person and the government said the policy is designed to keep them safe.
“This policy is part of our ongoing work to keep the approximately 31,000 employees who are working in-person safe, and to support the safe, graduated and flexible return to OPS workplaces over the next two months for those who have been working remotely,” the memo to staff read.
The government additionally said that the policy will apply to the premier’s office and the offices of all ministers.
Whereas some have attacked the policy announced by Ontario government earlier this week as more of a “vaccine encouragement” policy than a mandatory vaccination policy, it does still signal a shift for Premier Doug Ford’s government and the head of Ontario’s COVID science table, Dr. Peter Juni, has called it a decent start.
Ford has previously said that he doesn’t believe that any person should be forced to get a vaccine if they don’t want to, but has encouraged all eligible Ontario residents to get vaccinated.
Infectious disease experts have said that whereas the province won’t be able to inoculate its way out of a fourth wave because of the heightened transmissibility of the Delta variant, it remains critical for as many persons to get inoculated as possible to help curb the spread of the disease, especially to those who cannot be vaccinated, like kids as well as those with certain medical conditions.