Alberta ‘not in a position’ to relax all COVID-19 public health measures: Jason Kenney

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the province is not in a place right now to relax the COVID-19 public health measures that were put in place last month.

Current restrictions put in place in mid-December include a ban on in-person dining and limit grocery and retail stores to 15 per cent of their fire capacity. These restrictions, which went into place on Dec. 13, also forced the closure of personal services like gyms and hair salons.

Other measures, which ban both indoor and outdoor gatherings, were implemented on Dec. 8.

Read more: Alberta’s new COVID-19 measures ban in-person dining, outdoor gatherings; retail to remain open

Kenney took to Facebook live Wednesday night to address questions from Albertans, the first of which was about the current restrictions. The premier said he would have more to say about the current restrictions in a news conference Thursday, but added that now is not the time to be lifting restrictions, citing high daily new cases and hospitalization rates.

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“We will not be in a position in the short term to relax the restrictions that were put in place… I should say, all of the restrictions, that were put in place November, December,” Kenney said.

“But I’ve made it clear in the past that we have to balance the public health imperative of COVID off against all of the other impacts of restrictions, and that will inform our decisions going forward.”

Read more: COVID-19: No clear answer on when Alberta’s public health restrictions will be lifted

Kenney used a graph to showcase the spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations since October, which have seen exponential growth. He pointed out that in mid-October, there were about 100 people in hospital with COVID-19. That number went “almost straight up to 650 about a month later,” Kenney said.

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As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 911 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, 141 of whom were being treated in intensive care.

“We can manage that thanks to the great professionalism of our folks in the health-care system,” Kenney said.

“But we cannot manage, we could not manage continued exponential growth because once we were to hit like 2,000 or more COVID patients in hospitals, we have to cancel all surgeries that are not essential with massive damage to other people’s health. So tough measures had to be taken, sadly, and we said that the December measures that were brought into effect, I think on Dec. 14, we would assess those a month later and I’ll have more to say about that tomorrow.”

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Read more: Kenney expresses support for safe travel during COVID-19 pandemic despite his government’s website advisory

Kenney added that he hopes to get back to a regionalized approach to COVID-19 restrictions, “as soon as the numbers are in the right space.”

“But right now, we continue to lead the country in per capita new cases, active cases, and I believe fatalities, daily fatalities as well. Not overall. We are still lower than the national average since March, but on a day-to-day basis, we are ahead of other provinces.”

Kenney did allude to schools reopening as planned next week, after students have spent this week learning remotely. Again, Kenney said he would have more to say in a news conference Thursday.

“We had very few cases relatively with, I think, over 700,000 students. We had relatively few cases of transmission within schools. And we will also be providing additional contact tracing support for where there are outbreaks in schools, and we’ll also be providing additional support to teachers,” Kenney said. “More news on that to follow.

“We would not reopen the schools if we weren’t certain that it was safe.”

Click to play video 'Restriction limbo: businesses frustrated with lack of reopening date from Alberta government' Restriction limbo: businesses frustrated with lack of reopening date from Alberta government

Restriction limbo: businesses frustrated with lack of reopening date from Alberta government

Global News has confirmed that Kenney will hold a news conference on Thursday. The time of the media availability has not yet been released.

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More to come…

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