In not imposing tighter restrictions as COVID-19 variant cases surge, Premier Jason Kenney is playing politics and recklessly putting Albertans’ lives in jeopardy, NDP leader Rachel Notley said Monday.
Noting Kenney himself warned last Thursday of the variants’ rapid rate of reproduction while only urging Albertans’ restraint over the Easter long weekend, Notley said the premier was abdicating his responsibility.
“The rate of growth is exploding exactly as has been predicted… Contrary to his assertions that he has no modelling, he actually revealed a bit of the modelling and told us that he absolutely anticipates that under the current set of rules we’re going to have 1,000 people in the hospital,” said Notley.
“Those are people who are very, very sick, potentially permanently ill, people who may die and yet not a single action was taken by this premier rather he just hectored Albertans that it’s all up to them.”
Notley also demanded the UCP government reveal the advice being given to them by Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw and other advisers.
“I can’t believe (Kenney) is acting on professional medical advice,” she said, adding the province’s decision not to hold a press conference Monday on the matter is also lamentable.
On Sunday, Hinshaw tweeted there’d been a “significant” outbreak in Alberta of the P1 variant that originated in Brazil and is known to be extremely infectious and possibly more lethal.
But she gave no details of where the outbreak occurred or how that variant had arrived, only saying it was brought to Alberta by a traveller.
On Sunday, Alberta reported another 950 cases of COVID-19 with 600 of those being the more contagious variants of concern.
As of Sunday, 38 per cent of active cases are now comprised of those variants.
The test positivity rate has also continued to grow, sitting at about 8 per cent.
Notley said the situation facing Albertans now is far more dire than just before last year’s Thanksgiving, which turned out to be a super-spreader long weekend, leading to daily case counts in December of nearly 1,900 and hospitalizations exceeding 900.
The province didn’t move to impose tighter restrictions until Dec. 8, noted Notley.
“This dithering (now) means more harm to small businesses and workers, more chaos in school more pressure on our health care heroes and more lives lost,” she said.
It appears the premier is afraid of offending those who oppose COVID-19 restrictions while B.C., Saskatchewan and Ontario take stronger action, said Notley.
“He’s worrying more, again, about his political future and his political base,” she said.
“The province should enact restrictions similar to those in place in January and use $125 million in unspent provincial small business supports and tens of millions of federal job funds.”
Last Thursday, Kenney sounded the alarm ahead of the Easter long weekend, adding while vaccinations whose pace has picked in recent weeks is ultimately the solution, they’re still not coming quickly enough.
“This is a wake-up call for all Albertans. We can see the end of this thing … I would plead to Albertans to please be very careful and follow the public-health guidelines and the restrictions in place,” he said.
But he refused to change the province’s course on restrictions, saying going too far could smother the province’s economic recovery.
On the weekend, some Alberta doctors called for tougher restrictions, saying pleas for personal responsibility haven’t been enough to stymie the virus’s spread.
On Monday, Notley said staying the current course would lead to more economic strangulation.
“Economic recovery is fastest when the lowest number of people are infected,” she said.