EDMONTON – Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, facing consistently high COVID-19 cases pushing the health care system to the brink of collapse, rejects new measures and a so-called ‘firewall’ lockdown of the ‘economy.
Kenney said Tuesday his government needed more time to see if the recently announced rules were working.
A complete shutdown does no good, he said, as it would unduly punish people who have been vaccinated while probably having no effect on the 17% of eligible Albertans who have so far resisted a single injection.
“We monitor trends and numbers very closely every day. If we have to take additional steps we will, but they have to be effective, ”Kenney said in Calgary.
“If we were to introduce widespread restrictions, (they) would most likely be observed by those vaccinated, but we would likely see large-scale non-compliance among the unvaccinated population.
“It wouldn’t necessarily put us much further ahead.”
Kenney said his government will soon be launching a new advertising campaign to get people to get vaccinated. He also said he would implement a new regulation to prevent anti-vaccination protesters from gathering outside hospitals and health centers.
In recent days, the Alberta Medical Association and infectious disease specialists have said the only solution to the COVID-19 crisis is to immediately shut down schools, businesses and participation in sporting events – but with full compensation .
In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government is ready to help if so.
“If Alberta were to take further action and enter a lockdown, federal support for businesses, individuals, would resume. And we would make sure we were there to support people, ”Trudeau said.
Alberta hospitals face severe patient overcrowding due to COVID-19. The province has more than 20,000 active cases, eclipsing totals in other provinces.
The increase exceeded the capacity of 173 intensive care beds a few weeks ago, forcing the province to create ad hoc spaces and reallocate staff. This, in turn, has led to the cancellation of thousands of elective surgeries.
Doctors are educated on how to decide who receives life-saving care when resources are depleted. The Alberta Medical Association chief of emergency medicine has said some critical care patients are not put on ventilators because there are not enough staff.
There were 318 people in intensive care on Tuesday, most of them with the virus. More than 90% of COVID-19 patients in intensive care are either partially vaccinated or not vaccinated at all.
In total, there were 1,100 people hospitalized with the virus.
Almost two weeks ago, Kenney reinstated a province-wide indoor mask mandate and some assembly restrictions to try and slow the spread. He also brought some sort of vaccination passport to try to motivate people to get vaccinated.
But the number of cases continued to exceed an average of 1,000 per day. There were 1,246 new cases reported Tuesday and 18 more deaths.
Kenney lifted nearly all health restrictions on July 1, then took no action throughout the summer as cases and hospitalizations skyrocketed.
He has come under heavy criticism from members of his own United Conservative Party and caucus. Some UCP backbenchers are calling for fewer restrictions while others are calling on Kenney to impose stricter rules.
Some want him to resign.
Last week, former Cabinet Minister Leela Aheer called for Kenney’s resignation, saying he had not led COVID-19 when he got the chance in August.
UCP member Angela Pitt was asked on a Zoom call on Tuesday whether she had confidence in Kenney’s leadership and if he should still be in the top position.
“The answer to that question is no, I don’t, and I don’t think my constituents do either,” she said.
The UCP confirmed that Joel Mullan, the party’s political vice-president, had been sacked. Mullan publicly called on Kenney last week to step down for failing to act consistently and effectively on COVID-19.
“The democratically elected board of directors voted to remove Mr. Mullan from office for violating the code of conduct and the confidentiality agreement,” UCP spokesman Dave Prisco said in a statement .
Mullan, in an interview, disagreed.
Mullan said he was fired for publicly sharing one of his own emails calling for a leadership review. “At the end of the day, I think the reason I’m missing is because I spoke out against the leader.”
David Shepherd, opposition NDP health critic, said Kenney still had not prioritized public health for fear of angering an anti-restriction faction from his political base, while the members of his caucus had not had the courage to speak.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on September 28, 2021.
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press