Alberta expects to remove the vast majority of public health restrictions by the end of June, making its revised reopening schedule the most aggressive in the country.
Premier Jason Kenney on Wednesday presented a phased plan that results in the lifting of all COVID-19 measures, including a province-wide mask mandate, limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings and constraints on businesses, two weeks after 70% of eligible Albertans receive at least one dose of the vaccine. This could happen as early as June 28 based on current bookings, he said.
Mr. Kenney’s strategy keeps the Calgary Stampede running smoothly in July; Alberta’s flagship event had become a focal point as the government crafted its reopening measures. The plan will also appease critics from the Prime Minister’s own party who pushed back on the restrictions, even as intensive care units in Alberta overflowed and new daily cases skyrocketed.
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The prospect of ending all public health measures would represent a significant turnaround in a province that had by far the highest COVID-19 infection rates in North America just a few weeks ago. Mr Kenney, whose government has taken a less stringent approach to public health measures than other provinces throughout the pandemic, imposed tighter restrictions three weeks ago and infections have since plummeted.
Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Ontario have all released plans to reopen related to vaccination rates, but those schedules are more conservative. In British Columbia, full pre-pandemic activity will not resume until at least September 7. Ontario’s roadmap depends, in part, on having a portion of the population receiving a second dose of the vaccine. Quebec has also released a plan to gradually lift restrictions over the next month, although the province is not linking these changes to vaccination rates.
Mr Kenney introduced vaccines as a way out of the pandemic and said no jurisdiction had experienced a COVID-19 resurgence in hospitals after 70% of eligible citizens received a vaccine.
“If you don’t like the current restrictions – and who likes it? – the best thing you can do to stop it is get vaccinated, ”Kenney told reporters. “We are going to stick with COVID so that we can all fully reclaim our freedoms.”
Experts warn that the rapid reopening of Alberta could cause problems: the three vaccines used in Canada are not fully effective until recipients receive two doses; the effectiveness of vaccines against more contagious variants is not entirely clear; and the inoculation threshold is based on who is eligible for vaccines, which excludes anyone under the age of 12, rather than the population as a whole.
Kirsten Fiest, epidemiologist and professor at the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary, believes Alberta’s roadmap is driven by politics rather than science. The push to reopen before people are fully vaccinated later in the summer could lead to a resurgence, she said.
“It seems to me that this is a push to get things to fully reopen in time for the Stampede,” she said.
But Mr Kenney said the Albertans had “crushed” the point in the new cases and “crushed” it while queuing for their shots, giving the province a way forward.
“I don’t think a lot of Albertans will think it’s high speed,” he said.
About 58% of Albertans aged 12 and older received at least one dose of the vaccine on Tuesday, according to Alberta Health. This represents about 50% of the total population.
There were 548 COVID-19 patients in the hospital on Wednesday, including 157 in intensive care. This means Alberta has already crossed the first threshold to reopen 50 percent of eligible people vaccinated with one dose during hospital admissions under 800 and declining. (Hospital admissions did not exceed 800 in the third wave, but the healthcare system struggled to cope as a higher percentage ended up in the intensive care unit).
On Friday, the capacity of worship services increases to 15 percent of the fire code. On June 1, hair salons and similar businesses can reopen by appointment and restaurants can reopen patios to serve groups of four, among other changes.
Then, two weeks after 60% of Albertans aged 12 and over receive an injection and hospital admissions drop below 500, Alberta will remove the home work order, allow groups of six to dine together indoors and outdoors, will allow for outdoor public gatherings. up to 150 people, clear grandstands to take up a third of their seats, resume indoor and outdoor sports for all ages and make other adjustments.
Finally, almost all restrictions will be lifted two weeks after 70% of those eligible for a vaccine receive a dose. Isolation requirements for confirmed cases of COVID-19 and some measures in long-term care facilities will remain.
NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley said she fears Alberta’s plan to reopen is progressing faster than other provinces and asked the premier to release supporting evidence . For example, she said other provincial plans wait three weeks after reaching vaccination thresholds, while Alberta’s plan calls for a two-week wait. Restaurants could open for indoor dining in Alberta nearly a month before they do in Ontario, while in Quebec large fairs similar to the Stampede will not be allowed until at least the end of the year. August.
“I have questions about how the Prime Minister decided on this pace and whether it was enlightened by science, or just working backwards from day one of the Calgary Stampede,” she said. declared.
Shazma Mithani, a doctor in the Edmonton emergency department, said the Alberta government’s strategy is not encouraging people to receive their second dose. In addition, the vaccination threshold does not take into account regional disparities and the average will be supported by Calgary and Edmonton.
“It only sets the stage for epidemics in other parts of the province,” she said. “It’s hard to understand why there is a need to get things back to normal so quickly when opening this system aggressively puts us at high risk of prolonging this situation even further.”
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