The premier of Alberta announced sweeping new restrictions to tackle the spread of the coronavirus, admitting the Canadian province was in the throes of an “unvaccinated crisis.”
The new measures marked a major reversal from Jason Kenney’s hands-off approach to the pandemic before, and come amid warnings from frontline medical workers that the province’s health care system is on the verge to collapse.
Kenney admitted this when he described the province’s new restrictions, telling the public Alberta could run out of intensive care beds and staff to treat intensive care patients within 10 days.
Alberta currently has the worst coronavirus outbreak in Canada.
Kenney, whose government is made up of moderate and far-right Tories, has previously resisted vaccination passport systems, citing privacy concerns. But on Wednesday night, he admitted he had little 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. “
From the end of the month, Albertans must show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test for restaurants, bars and indoor events. Companies that choose not to apply for immunization status will have a separate and more stringent set of regulations that they must follow. For example, if restaurants opt out of the vaccine passport system, they must close their indoor dining rooms and limit outdoor service to tables of six, all of whom must be in the same household.
“No one will be forced to get vaccinated against their will, and a negative test option will be offered as an alternative,” Kenney said. “But with unvaccinated patients plaguing our hospitals, this is now the only responsible choice we have. “
The rules apply to anyone over 12 years old.
In his remarks, 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 the united Conservative party in power started selling hats proclaiming that 2021 was the “best summer ever”. These hats are no longer for sale.
“It’s now clear that we were wrong – and for that, I apologize,” Kenney said.
Alberta Health Services Chief Verna Yiu issued dire warnings to the province on Wednesday, saying her agency will soon ask other provinces if they have intensive care space to treat Albertans. AHS will also ask other provinces if they have frontline medical staff who could be deployed to help in Alberta.
The province has already canceled surgeries to increase intensive care capacity. As of Tuesday, 270 people were in intensive care units in Alberta, well above the limit of 173. More than 90% of patients in the intensive care unit are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.