COVID-19 threat will remain long after Stage 3 starts: Kenney
CALGARY -- COVID-19 will continue to be a threat in Alberta for months — and possibly years — after the province reaches the 70 per cent vaccination benchmark to remove health restrictions, Premier Jason Kenney said Monday.
And even after the province reopens, we will still see seasonal spikes of the disease, he warned.
Speaking to reporters about the Open For Summer Lottery — which will see three $1-million prizes awarded in the coming months to Albertans who have been vaccinated — Kenney said the first of three draws will be made on the first day of Stage 3, but that won't mean an end to the pandemic.
"As Dr. (Deena) Hinshaw has said, COVID is not going away," he said.
"It's not going away at Phase 3. It will probably continue to be a healthcare issue for many years to come, just like the Spanish flu was for 30-plus years after its deadly phase. So we can expect to see COVID and different variant strains ricochet around the world and around our province for years to come, just like other contagious diseases do."
According to Kenney on Monday, about 48,300 more people need to receive a first dose before Alberta reaches its 70 per cent benchmark. According to the latest data, 68.7 per cent of the eligible population had been vaccinated with at least one dose.
Kenney added the goal of provincial health measures and mandates over the last 16 month was to stop the province's healthcare system from being overwhelmed.
"We've never been chasing after zero, people will continue to contract COVID," he said.
"There will be seasonal spikes. I guarantee you there will be one this fall, probably starting in mid-October, and some of those people will end up in hospital. Sadly, some of those people will pass away, just as we have dozens of people who die every year from the conventional flu.
"These are different diseases, COVID is more dangerous, but we also have much wider protection in terms of vaccines."
As the province's readies to move from Stage 2 to Stage 3 — when all health measures will be removed, two weeks after 70 per cent of Albertans age 12 and up have received a first shot — Kenney said officials are keeping a close eye on spread of the B.1.617 (Delta) variant, first identified in India.
An outbreak of the variant is ongoing at Foothills hospital in Calgary.