Alberta’s lighter approach to public health interventions, and its consistent pandemic policy, have saved lives while helping Albertans stay in business, says Premier Jason Kenney.
“We have never brought in public health restrictions that substantially affected more than 15 per cent of Alberta businesses,” said Kenny during a Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce teleconference event on Wednesday.
He said even with recent restrictions due to rising COVID-19 variant case levels, about 95 per cent of businesses are open.
“Other jurisdictions have flipped into hard lockdowns. They went into relaxations too early. We’ve never gone into hard lockdowns. We’ve always maintained the middle-ground approach.”
Kenney thanked the business community for their resilience.
“I know it hasn’t been easy. I know there’s been real loss, great sacrifice and we’re not through this yet. But we are getting closer by the day,” Kenney said.
Some Albertans may have preferred no public health restrictions, like in South Dakota, but that state has also experienced a death rate five times that of Alberta, he said.
“It would not be morally acceptable for me to tolerate that. I don’t think it would be acceptable for the vast majority of Albertans.”
Instead, Albertans have risen to the challenge, he said.
“Thirteen months into this, and our COVID fatality rate is lower than the Canadian average. It is about one-quarter of the U.S. level on a per capita basis, and substantially lower than Europe.”
He asked chamber of commerce members to help further reduce the spread of COVID by encouraging people to get immunized. Albertans between 55 to 64, qualify for the AstraZeneca vaccine but the uptake has been low.
“It is safe. They’ve administered over 10 million doses in the U.K. with about 30 or 40 blood clot situations. Not having the vaccine is a much higher risk then getting that vaccine that has been approved by scientific bodies around the world.”
He said if vaccine supply is maintained about 48 per cent of Albertans could have some protection by the end of June, along with the 10 to 12 per cent who have developed COVID antibodies from infection.
“If we get this variant spike under control we can move forward with meaningful relaxation of public health measures as we move into the late spring and summer. Then we project by the end of September, we should be at about 70 per cent of protection having administered double doses to all willing adults.”