Alberta’s prime minister announced sweeping new restrictions to combat the spread of the coronavirus, admitting that the Canadian province was hit by an “unvaccinated crisis.”
The new measures marked a major change from Jason Kenney’s hands-off approach to the pandemic previously, and come amid warnings from front-line medical workers that the province’s healthcare system is on the brink of collapse. .
Kenney admitted that when he outlined the province’s new restrictions, telling the public that Alberta could run out of intensive care beds and staffed to care for ICU patients within 10 days.
Alberta currently has the worst coronavirus outbreak in Canada.
Kenney, whose government is made up of far-right and moderate conservatives, has previously resisted vaccine passport systems, citing privacy concerns. But on Wednesday night, he admitted he had few options.
“The first obligation of the government must be to avoid a large number of preventable deaths. We must face the reality that we face. We cannot wish it to disappear, ”he said. “Morally, ethically and legally, the protection of life must be our main concern.”
Starting at the end of this month, Albertans must show proof of vaccination or negative Covid test for restaurants, bars, and events hosted indoors. Companies that choose not to request vaccination status will have a stricter set of regulations that they must follow. For example, if restaurants choose to exit the vaccine passport system, they must close their indoor dining rooms and limit outdoor service to tables of six, all of whom must be from the same household.
“No one will be forced to get vaccinated against their wishes, and a negative test option will be offered as an alternative,” Kenney said. “But with unvaccinated patients overwhelming our hospitals, this is now the only responsible option we have.”
The rules apply to anyone over the age of 12.
In his comments, Kenney also apologized for treating Covid-19 as something that was not an immediate threat to the lives of Albertans. In July, officials said Alberta was “open for the summer” and that the ruling United Conservative Party started selling hats proclaiming that 2021 was the “Best Summer of All Time”. Those hats are is no longer for sale.
“Now it’s clear that we were wrong, and for that, I apologize,” Kenney said.
Alberta Health Services Director Verna Yiu also had dire warnings for the province on Wednesday, warning that her agency will soon ask other provinces if they have space in the ICU to serve Albertans. AHS will also ask other provinces if they have front-line medical personnel that can be dispatched to help in Alberta.
The province has already canceled surgeries to increase the ICU’s capacity. As of Tuesday, 270 people were in Alberta’s ICUs, far more than the limit of 173. More than 90% of ICU patients are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism