Alberta Premier admits he was wrong, reintroduces COVID lockdown
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney on Wednesday introduced strict and sweeping new measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 as he apologized for his government’s handling of the pandemic.
The measures include a new program that requires people to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test in order to gain entry to participating businesses and social events.
A decision this spring to move from a pandemic-to-endemic approach — or learning to live with the virus — seemed like the right thing to do based on data from other jurisdictions with similar vaccination rates, Kenney told a news conference.
“It is now clear that we were wrong, and for that I apologize,” Kenney said.
Alberta has declared a state of public health emergency and is taking immediate action to stave off the ongoing crisis in the health-care system, the premier said.
“To prevent an ongoing crisis, we must do three things urgently,” he said.
“First, we must maximize our health-care capacity. Secondly, reduce transmission of the virus by reducing interaction with other people. And thirdly, we have to get as many people as possible vaccinated.”
Without interventions, Kenney said, Alberta hospitals may run out of staff and intensive care beds within the next 10 days.
Right now, Alberta has more than 18,000 active cases — the most of any province. On Wednesday, there were 877 people in hospital with the illness, including 218 in intensive care. By contrast, Ontario, with a population more than three times Alberta’s had 346 in hospital, with 188 in intensive care.
The new measures include restrictions on restaurants, indoor gatherings, weddings and funerals, retail, entertainment venues, and indoor sport and fitness.
In recent weeks, the government had faced repeated calls from doctors, the Opposition NDP and business groups to introduce a vaccine passport, as other provinces have done.
The government’s response is what it calls a “restrictions exemption program.”