Doctors urge Kenney to implement circuit breaker or lockdown as COVID-19 cases climb in Alberta

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Edmonton-area doctors are urging Alberta Premier Jason Kenney to immediately implement a circuit breaker or lockdown due to the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases.

In a letter sent to Kenney on Thursday, Dr. Noel Gibney and Dr. James Talbot, co-chairs of the Strategic COVID-19 Pandemic Committee of the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association, said the predicted third wave of COVID-19 will dwarf what occurred in December if “urgent and competent action is not taken.”

“This is being driven by the more rapidly transmissible U.K. variant which causes more serious consequences, bad decisions by individuals and organizations not to obey public health guidelines, a lack of enforcement of public health regulations and the government’s premature relaxation of existing COVID-19 precautions which has encouraged super-spreader events,” the letter states.

The doctors wrote the U.K. variant causes up to 60 per cent more serious disease and deaths, as seen where it has taken hold, more critically affects younger people, and is transmitted faster meaning the stress on the healthcare system will be greater than the second wave.


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“This endangers anyone who will need to be treated in a hospital for COVID or for any other serious health condition. As we have warned for months the continued increase in community spread of this variant was entirely predictable with premature reductions in COVID-19 protective measures,” the letter states.

On Wednesday, Alberta reported its highest new COVID-19 case count in nearly three months with 871 and set a new record for variant cases with 406 identified.

The doctors are calling for the province to take a number of steps to clamp down on the cases, including immediately moving to a lockdown or circuit breaker. They recommend people should be advised to only leave their homes for essential services or outdoor exercise.

The call comes on the same day Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that province would be going into a 28-day lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19.

While it falls short of a stay-at-home order, the Ontario lockdown will see the closure of all indoor and outdoor dining, however, retailers will remain open with capacity limits. The measures are to avoid modelling that suggested Ontario could reach 6,000 new COVID-19 cases per day by late April.

Kenney, meanwhile, said on Wednesday that a lockdown to reach “COVID-zero” is not in the cards for Alberta.

“Our goal in Alberta at least is a balanced one. It’s a three-point goal,” said Kenney. “To control viral spread so that we can avoid significant numbers of preventable deaths. Number 2, to protect our healthcare systems and the capacity of our hospitals and number 3, to minimize the damage on our broader social-economic health resulting from restrictions.”


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In their letter, Gibney and Talbot said they recognize the impact a lockdown will have on businesses and people.

“However, without a timely public health response to the rapidly increasing numbers of new COVID cases caused by the U.K variant, our hospitals and ICUs will be overwhelmed before the end of April,” the letter states.

They said it is possible, as Health Minister Tyler Shandro noted during a COVID-19 press conference at the end of January, that there could be between 8,000 and 10,000 new cases per day by May if action is not taken.

“This would be devastating, not only from suffering and death involved but also from its dramatic impact on the economy. It will be even more devastating because prompt and competent government action can reduce this needless suffering.”

Kenney will provide an update on COVID-19 in Alberta Thursday afternoon with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

— With files from Reuters


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