EDMONTON – Amid a fourth wave of COVID-19 cases, Alberta Prime Minister Jason Kenney declared a state of public health emergency in his province and introduced a host of new measures, including a vaccine passport system , in a major makeover for the United States. Conservative leader.
Kenney’s announcement came at a news conference Wednesday night that followed a difficult day for Alberta, where the health care system and its intensive care units have been struggling to keep up with the surge in cases.
One person had died at a rate of one per hour, accounting for 24 deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, along with 1,609 new cases reported.
The prime minister acknowledged that the situation in his province is turning out to be worse than the worst case of recent models and said Alberta could run out of staffed intensive care beds in the next 10 days.
“Unless we reduce transmission, particularly among unvaccinated Albertans, we simply will not be able to provide adequate care for everyone who becomes ill based on current trends,” Kenney said. “How bad this situation gets and how long it lasts now is up to each and every one of us.”
Despite promising for weeks that the province would not do so, Kenney told the press conference that a vaccine passport system will be implemented for some companies beginning Sept. 20.
Eligible businesses and events that elect to require proof of vaccination or proof of a negative test after that date will be exempt from the introduction of new public health restrictions.
However, there are also new public health measures for the province that are generally applied, such as mandatory work-from-home orders, mandatory masking in schools, and restrictions on indoor social gatherings.
Even those who are fully vaccinated are not allowed to meet with more than one person outside their home. Those who are not vaccinated cannot socialize.
Starting September 20, there will be no more indoor dining unless a business requires proof of vaccination. There are capacity restrictions in gyms, places of worship, and other public spaces.
Adopting a vaccine passport is a dramatic change for Kenney, who had vowed not to introduce a system that restricted the places where unvaccinated people could go publicly. It had previously raised concerns about privacy laws and instead suggested that companies or event organizers might require passports.
The new crackdown also comes after the Kenney government lifted most of the COVID restrictions in early July, promising residents the “best summer ever.”
The prime minister appeared to apologize for those actions early in his press conference, but later, during follow-up questions from a reporter, was quick to clarify that he would not apologize.
Instead, Kenney said he regretted being “too optimistic” that the province would be open forever and for underestimating the virus. He defended the decision to lift the restrictions when he did.
The COVID-19 situation in Alberta has become one of the worst in the country. For weeks, the province has been seeing 1,000 new COVID-19 cases a day, on average, with a steady rise in hospitalizations, most of them unvaccinated. Alberta’s vaccination rate has slowed during the summer and only a little over 71 percent of eligible people are fully vaccinated.
Hospitals are struggling. Alberta Health Services has been adding surge capacity to ICUs, but has still seen beds across the province almost completely filled. At the beginning of this week, intensive care units were at 90 percent capacity.
“This is an unvaccinated crisis,” Kenney said. “Ninety percent of our intensive care patients are not vaccinated.”
The day before, a tense caucus meeting had lasted much of the afternoon and into the night.
A caucus source told the Star that there were disagreements from some UCP MLAs over the implementation of a mandatory vaccine passport system and more public health measures. Some MLAs are unhappy with Kenney’s leadership during the pandemic, said the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly.
After taking a vacation in August, Kenney returned and reinstated a provincial mask mandate, established a curfew for liquor service at 10 p.m., and announced that $ 100 gift cards would be offered to anyone who received a jab between September 3 and October 14.
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