Several doctors from Calgary and Edmonton say public-health restrictions introduced by the Alberta government will not be enough to reduce the spread of COVID-19 during the province’s third wave.
Premier Jason Kenney brought back tougher restrictions Tuesday that include shutting down indoor dining in restaurants, curbing indoor fitness and reducing retail capacity.
Dr. James Talbot, co-chair of the COVID-19 committee with the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association and a professor at the University of Alberta, said those measures will help but not enough.
“It’s not enough to bring the numbers down,” he said Wednesday during a Zoom press conference with several other doctors.
“They’ll rise more slowly, but they are not going to come down.”
The Easter long weekend saw an average of about 1,000 new COVID-19 cases per day in the province. There were 931 new infections reported Tuesday.
About 43 per cent of Alberta’s 10,000 active cases were the more contagious and potentially more dangerous variants.
There were 328 people in hospital with the illness, including 76 in intensive care.
The death toll in the province also surpassed 2,000.
Kenney said Alberta is on track to have 2,000 new infections a day and 1,000 people in hospital with COVID-19 by the end of April.
The province is now seeing a third wave of COVID-19, driven by variants, he said.
Dr. Gosia Gasperowicz, a developmental biologist with the faculty of nursing at the University of Calgary, said cases related to the more contagious B.1.1.7 variant are doubling in Calgary every week.
“It’s very fast,” she said. “It’s taking over… and the growth rate is very consistent, doubling every six to seven days.”
She said cases during the second wave in the fall were doubling every two to two and a half weeks.
Gasperowicz said it would take a shutdown similar to one last spring to even start bending the curve downward.
“To really substantially and quickly bend the curve and reduce the daily new cases, we would need restrictions the strength of New Zealand, Australia — basically full financially supported lockdown.
“The measures from winter won’t be enough to bend downward the variant curve. We would need at least the restrictions from the spring shutdown last year.”
Dr. Shazma Mithani, an emergency physician in Edmonton and a member of the Calgary and Area Medical Staff Society/Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association, agrees.
“Our group of doctors is calling for a circuit-breaker or full lockdown for a period of several weeks in order to bend the curve effectively but also bring community transmission down significantly,” she said Wednesday.
“Close all non-essential services, encourage people to stay at home, only have contact with their household or their designated cohort, to limit exercise to only outdoors, no indoor exercise, no in-person dining — whether that’s indoors or on patios — and also have increased enforcement from AHS.”
She said the graphs the premier displayed during his update on Tuesday showed how effective stricter health measures were in curbing rising case numbers during the second wave in mid-December.
“Those visual graphs are a great way to illustrate that weaker measures don’t do as much when we’re in an exponential growth phase. We need strong measures in those situations to prevent a higher peak from happening and also to start declining the cases rapidly,” Mithani said.
“The difference between the second wave and this wave, however, is the variants of concern. We’re already seeing the slope of that rise… is much more rapid and that’s all driven by the variants of concern.”
— With files from Emily Mertz, Global News
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