Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Monday that he supports compulsory COVID-19 testing for health-care workers who refuse to get vaccinated, though he stopped short of saying the province would implement such a measure.

“I do,” Ford said when asked by reporters if he supports the move. “And I have a great deal of respect for Kevin Smith – he’s the CEO of UHN (University Health Network)… he's doing the right thing.”

Toronto’s University Health Network confirmed last week that it will soon require staff who have not been vaccinated to present a negative COVID-19 test from within 48 hours before reporting for work.

While Ford said Monday that he supports hospitals requiring negative COVID-19 tests for unvaccinated workers, he said the province will not dictate to hospitals whether they should implement the policy.

Ford also reiterated Monday that he will not force health-care workers to get vaccinated, despite calls from some medical experts to do so.

“I just don't believe in forcing anyone to get a vaccination that doesn't want it,” Ford said following a funding announcement outside The Ottawa Hospital. “I'm up here, literally preaching begging, pleading, every single day since the beginning of this pandemic, especially since we we've had these vaccinations. So folks, if you're in the health-care industry, please just go and get a vaccination.”

Registered Nurses Association of Ontario President Doris Grinspun told CP24 Monday night that vaccines should “absolutely” be mandatory for health-care workers, as well as teachers, and workers in other industries, barring special medical circumstances.

“I want to everybody to think about the patients, the people in those ICU beds,” Grinspun said. “If you or I was one of them, we would want to know if the person that is coming in contact with us is fully vaccinated or not.”

She said health care workers are not required to tell patients whether or not they are vaccinated and said there have been instances where workers have in fact been barred from telling patients that they are vaccinated.

“So the question to the premier is; who is he protecting,” Grinspun said. “The few that are not taking the vaccine? Well we are protecting patients. That's the majority of the people, why we came to the profession in the first place.”

The premier pointed out that around 90 per cent of health care workers have been vaccinated and said he is “excited” that Ontario is close to crossing the threshold of 80 per cent of the population having received a first dose.

However Grinspun disputed the 90 per cent figure for health-care worker vaccination.

“The information is not publicly available, and that is shameful,” she said. “It should be publicly available. Everybody's guessing what it is but it's not available so it begs the question, how well is it being collected.”

In a statement released Monday, Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca called for vaccination to be mandatory for any frontline worker in health care or education.

“I think we have to use every single tool available to us, including making vaccinations mandatory,” he told CP24.

As of Monday, 79.7 per cent of those 12 and over in Ontario have had at least one vaccine shot, while 66.15 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore has said the province should aim for around 90 per cent of the population to be fully vaccinated in order to get community-level protection against the more infectious Delta variant, first detected in India.

The pace of vaccinations has slowed, however, as a greater share of the population have received their shots.

Yesterday Ontario gave out 65,920 COVID-19 vaccine doses, the lowest number of shots given in a day since May 3, when the province gave out 53,880 jabs.

While Ford has said he won’t madate vaccinations for anyone, he did say that vaccination is the tool allowing the province to reopen safely and urged anyone who has hesitations about getting a COVID-19 shot to speak with a doctor or pharmacist.

“You might be hesitant. Think of your loved ones. Think of your children, think of your parents, think of your friends, your co workers. It's absolutely critical,” Ford said.



Meanwhile officials in Toronto said Monday that close to 70 per cent of residents are now fully vaccinated against the virus, while more than 80 per cent of city residents have had at least one dose of a vaccine.

The city’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa hailed the milestone in a tweet.

“I couldn't be prouder of today's milestone & our rapid #vaccination progress, thanks to everyone who continues to step up & roll up their sleeve to protect themselves, those they love, & our city. Thank you for taking care of each other,” de Villa said.

Toronto public health has launched a push to try and reach even more people through call centres and social media campaigns, targeting areas with low vaccine uptake.

The city has also opened all nine of its mass vaccination clinics to walk-in appointments from noon to 7 p.m. each day.

A vaccination popup clinic at Mel Lastman Square over the weekend managed to give out 3,106 vaccine doses, including 674 first doses.