Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, facing unrest in his caucus and a health system on the verge of failing as COVID-19 spreads unchecked, introduced a vaccine passport system that will give businesses the choice between strict restrictions or demanding clients who present proof of vaccination or a negative test.
Mr Kenney has declared a state of public health emergency and said Alberta may run out of intensive care beds and staff to treat intensive care patients within 10 days. Alberta is also reintroducing restrictions on physical distancing in public; ban private social gatherings indoors for people over 12 who are not vaccinated; limit indoor gatherings for those who are vaccinated; requiring all staff and students in grades 4 to 12 to wear masks at school; ordering people to work from home; and other measures.
The Prime Minister admitted to having previously promised that his government would not support a vaccination passport system, but said he had no choice.
“The government’s first obligation must be to avoid a large number of preventable deaths. We have to face the reality we are facing. We cannot wish it, ”he said. “Morally, ethically and legally, the protection of life must be our primary concern. “
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He admitted that the government had made a mistake when it decided over the summer to treat COVID-19 as an “endemic” disease like the flu.
“It is now clear that we were wrong – and for that, I apologize,” he said.
The Prime Minister made the decision after two days of United Conservative Party cabinet and caucus meetings.
Alberta’s healthcare system is overrun with patients not vaccinated against the virus, forcing Alberta health services to cancel surgeries in order to expand critical care capacity beyond its base with 173 beds. As of Tuesday, there were 877 COVID-19 patients in Alberta hospitals, including 218 in intensive care. About 93% of COVID-19 patients in intensive care are unvaccinated or partially immunized, and 73% of infected patients in other parts of hospitals are unvaccinated or partially immunized.
Vaccine passports have boosted vaccination efforts in other provinces. In the two weeks since British Columbia announced its plans for vaccine passports, its vaccination rate for people aged 18 to 29 increased by more than 4%, the doctor said on Monday. Chief of Alberta, Deena Hinshaw. In addition, vaccination rates have increased by almost 3% for those 30 to 39 and 1% for those over 50, she said.
In Alberta, 79 percent of people over 12 had received at least one dose of the vaccine on Tuesday, compared to 84 percent of eligible Canadians as of September 4. In addition, 71 percent of eligible Albertans received two injections, compared to 77 percent nationwide. Of Alberta’s total population, 67.4 percent have one vaccine and 60.5 percent have two, according to government data.
Mr Kenney, in July, said his government would not “facilitate” vaccine passports.
He said he would “discourage companies” from implementing their own vaccine requirements, which he said would violate Alberta’s privacy laws.
Large organizations ignored his advice, including Alberta Health Services, the province’s largest employer; Canadian Natural Resource Ltd., the oil sands power plant; the Calgary Flames; the Edmonton Oilers; and a handful of small businesses. On Monday, nine post-secondary institutions in Alberta said people who fail to provide proof that they are vaccinated will not be allowed on their campuses.
A negative test will only be accepted instead for people with medical or other protections detailed in Alberta human rights law. Previously, three of the nine schools had announced vaccination warrants, except for those who tested negative, but not all had demanded proof.
Mr Kenney, on Sept. 3, reintroduced masking requirements for indoor public spaces, although schools were exempt, and banned alcohol service after 10 p.m. little to increase vaccination rates. Critics have argued that the policy rewards latecomers, especially given masking and alcohol restrictions on everyone.
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