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A pharmacist technician fills a syringe with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine at a vaccine clinic in Toronto.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Ontario will offer all adults who are six months past their second dose a booster shot of COVID-19 vaccine starting Jan. 4, the province said Friday as it scrapped plans to lift its vaccine certificate and announced a crackdown on fake medical exemptions.

The moves, announced by Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott and Chief Medical Officer of Health Kieran Moore, come as infections in the province rose rapidly amid projections that a new more contagious variant could see cases skyrocket in just weeks.

“Please keep your social contacts to a minimum,” Dr. Moore said. “Keep your gatherings small ... We do not want this holiday season to become a superspreading event.”

The province was already set to open up third doses of the vaccine to those 50 years old and up on Monday.

The push for booster shots comes as infections from the new Omicron variant keep climbing rapidly. Dr. Moore said the new variant now makes up 10 per cent of samples tested in Ontario and could soon be the dominant strain.

The province said that effective Jan. 4, its vaccine certificate rules for restaurants and other higher-risk businesses will no longer allow the acceptance of the old printed versions, without a scannable QR code. Those with medical exemptions will also need a verified certificate with a QR code. Doctor’s notes will no longer be accepted as of Jan. 10.

Effective Dec. 20, children over 12 will need to be vaccinated to participate in organized sports in recreational facilities – a requirement some youth organizations, such as the Greater Toronto Hockey League, have already implemented.

Dr. Moore also said all employers should “make every effort” to have employees work from home.

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