Canada’s top doctor says Alberta’s COVID-19 response is an example of the kind of consequences a jurisdiction could face if it reopens too soon.
Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, told reporters at a news conference on Thursday that COVID surges could be reduced if provinces acted quickly enough, but acknowledged that Vaccines take time – suggesting that Alberta has run out of it for some time.
“We are always learning through this pandemic, and it will not be an easy thing to navigate in the next months,” she said.
“If measures are let go too fast, and vaccination rates aren’t growing fast enough… you are giving this virus room to accelerate if your vaccine coverage doesn’t go down well with your reopening or easier measures. Not moving fast enough.”
Tam’s comments come amid a massive increase in cases and hospitalizations in Alberta. The province, which eased nearly all public health restrictions as part of its July 1 “Open for Summer” plan, is in the national spotlight for its current handling of the fourth wave.
On Wednesday, Premier Jason Kenney apologized for his decision to withdraw security from Albertans. They also reintroduced a state of emergency and a number of public health measures, including a vaccine passport and mandatory work-from-home rules, unless an employer determines that a physical presence is required.
Kenney said his government “reluctantly” backtracked from its commitment to “stay open for good” and not bring a vaccine passport as the fourth wave of the pandemic is pushing the capacity of Alberta’s health care system to the limit.
At the time of Alberta’s “Open for Summer” plan, cases were declining, but returned in late July.
Asked about the situation in Alberta, Tam urged other provinces to be “extremely vigilant about this virus.”
She put it bluntly: “Don’t be complacent.”
“When you don’t have so many cases, simple measures like masking, especially indoors, spacing and other measures…
“If you are experiencing this type of surge, vaccines will not be fast enough. You have to add additional measures.”
Alberta’s situation was a hot topic on the campaign trail even on Thursday.
Opposition leaders have targeted Liberal leader Justin Trudeau for calling elections amid a fourth wave.
Speaking in Toronto, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh called Trudeau a “failure”. He also directed Criticism in Kenny.
“When we talk about leadership, conservatives have completely failed, there’s no question about it. Mr. Kenny is a failure in leadership and the people of Alberta, sadly, because of that failure. are suffering,” he said.
“Mr. Trudeau also failed. We must not forget that he called for the election. He made the decision, knowing full well with all the evidence we have – there was not a possible fourth wave, certainly a fourth There was going to be a wave – and instead of helping the people, they decided to call elections. This is a huge failure of the leadership.”
In Nova Scotia, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole danced to questions about Alberta and support for Kenny, but said the provinces needed more aid than Trudeau offered.
“During this crisis, all provinces have tried to strike a balance between making public health paramount and balancing economic needs,” he said.
“All the provinces have moved and adjusted based on the different waves of the pandemic, but what the provinces do not have is a consistent and trustworthy partner in Ottawa. Mr Trudeau fights for the people – I will fight for the people of Canada.”
In Montreal, Trudeau said his government had sent billions in aid to help support the pandemic, but said it was not his job to “judge, or criticize, or tell definitively” what to do. .
He suggested that if Alberta introduced a vaccine mandate as soon as other provinces, the situation could be different.
“Our job is to support, encourage, financially. We spent the past year helping provinces with health care, to help back-to-school, to help support science, to test … I think what Canadians see in this is leadership that matters, at any level,” he said.
“The choice we make on who to lead the government in times of crisis, whether at the provincial level or the federal level, decides how we’re going to do it.”
In late July, Canada’s top doctors criticized Alberta’s easing of COVID-19 measures, which included ending asymptomatic testing and no longer informing close contacts of exposure.
Tam said that on July 30 she wanted people to be in isolation, get tested for COVID-19 and inform their close contacts, even if it is not required.
Canada’s chief deputy public health officer, Dr. Howard Njoo, said at the time that he was concerned that the consequences of Alberta’s decision could spread across the country.
“Everyone is living for the fact that there can be a ‘knock effect’ with travel within Canada to other provinces and territories.”
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