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Alberta’s Kenney rejects new health rules as COVID-19 cripples hospitals

Kenney lifted almost all health restrictions July 1, then failed to act throughout the summer as cases and hospitalizations spiralled.

September 29, 2021  The Canadian Press

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, facing consistently high COVID-19 cases that are pushing the health system to the brink of collapse, is rejecting new measures and a so-called “firebreak” lockdown of the economy.

Kenney said on Sept. 28 that his government needs more time to see if recently announced rules are working.

There’s no point to a full shutdown, he said, as it would unduly punish people who have been vaccinated while probably having no effect on the 17 per cent of eligible Albertans who have so far resisted getting even one shot.

“We are monitoring the trends and the numbers very closely every day. If we need to take additional measures, we will, but they have to be effective,” Kenney said in Calgary.

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“If we were to bring in widespread restrictions, (they) would most likely be complied with by people who are vaccinated, but we would likely see large scale non-compliance among the unvaccinated population.”

Kenney said his government will soon be rolling out a new advertising campaign to urge people to get vaccinated. He also said he will implement a new regulation to stop anti-vaccination protesters from gathering in front of hospitals and health centres.

Alberta’s hospitals are dealing with severe patient overcrowding due to COVID-19. The province has more than 20,000 active cases, dwarfing totals in other provinces.

The surge overwhelmed the capacity of 173 intensive care beds weeks ago, which forced the province to create ad hoc spaces and reassign staff. That, in turn, has led to cancellation of thousands of non-urgent surgeries.

Almost two weeks ago, Kenney reinstated a provincewide, indoor mask mandate and some gathering restrictions to try to slow the spread. He also brought in a type of vaccine passport in an attempt to motivate people to get vaccinated.

But case numbers have continued to average well over 1,000 a day. There were 1,246 new cases reported Tuesday and 18 more deaths.

Kenney lifted almost all health restrictions July 1, then failed to act throughout the summer as cases and hospitalizations spiralled.

He has come under fierce criticism from members of his own United Conservative Party and caucus. Some UCP backbenchers are urging fewer restrictions while others demand Kenney impose tighter rules.

Some want him to resign.

David Shepherd, health critic for the Opposition NDP, said Kenney has consistently failed to put public health first for fear of angering an anti-restriction faction of his political base, while those in his caucus have not shown the courage to speak up.