New COVID-19 restrictions 'likely': Premier Jason Kenney
CALGARY -- As the number of COVID cases continues to rise in Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney says it is "likely" his government will have to impose tighter restrictions.
Kenney made the comments on Saturday during a webinar hosted by the Canada India Foundation. The event was focused on economic opportunities in Alberta, but the issue of COVID-19 came up during a question and answer portion.
"We will likely have to take some more restrictive measures, given the current direction of things here," Kenney said.
"Because ultimately our goal is to protect the healthcare system from being overwhelmed, while minimizing damage to the broader social, economic, mental, emotional and physical health of society.
"I guess our point is, we are not exclusively focused on COVID-19, we understand that for every policy and response to it, there are unintended consequences, so we've taken a holistic approach and we believe that that's been effective."
Christine Myatt from the Premier's Office confirmed that the Priorities Implementation Committee is meeting Monday afternoon.
She said an announcement will be made on Tuesday.
In a release, Health Critic David Shepherd disputed Kenney's contention the province's response has been efffective.
“Nobody in Alberta believes the UCP response to COVID-19 has been effective,” he said.
“While Jason Kenney is patting himself on the back in private, Alberta is reporting more daily cases than any other province, including ones with more than three times our population.
"Our caucus has warned this premier that he is sleepwalking through the second wave and increasing the risk of putting Alberta into a lockdown. And now the Premier’s own words confirm that he either doesn’t understand what is happening in Alberta or he simply doesn’t care about the exponential case growth and the risk it poses to Albertans.”
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced Monday 1,549 new cases of COVID-19 in the province, a day after health officials announced 1,584 cases, which was a new record high for Alberta.
Shepherd also challenged Kenney to announce new measures immediately if that is the direction the government decides to go.
“If Jason Kenney is finally taking action, he should walk straight out of that meeting (Monday) and tell Albertans the truth,” he said.
“Families and businesses deserve every hour they can get to prepare. It’s totally unacceptable for Jason Kenney to go home tonight without telling Albertans what his plans are."
Speaking about his government's overall response to the novel coronavirus, Kenney said he feels they did "very well" between March and October, but admitted the recent spike in numbers is troubling.
Health measures have been focused on "at-home social activities," said Kenney, because that accounts for about 40 per cent of known spread, while bars and restaurants account for less than one per cent of known transmission.
"So that kind of characterizes our approach," he said.
Alberta is the only provinces in the country that hasn't mandated face masks be worn at all indoor public locations, instead, they have left that as a measure for municipalities to impose.
Face covering bylaws are currently in place in several cities and towns across Alberta, including Calgary, Edmonton, Airdrie, Okotoks, and Chestermere. Proposed mask bylaws have been voted down in Strathmore and Black Diamond.