‘All we’ve done is taken our foot off the gas’: doctor responds to new Alberta COVID-19 restrictions

A Calgary urgent care doctor is speaking out about the newest COVID-19 restrictions announced in Alberta on Tuesday.

Dr. Raj Bhardwaj said although he believes steps have been taken in the right direction, he doesn’t think the provincial government had gone far enough.

“I feel like we are in a car that’s careening towards a cliff, and we had the chance to sort of turn the wheel or to hit the brakes, and all we’ve done is taken our foot off the gas,” he said.

The new COVID-19 safety measures in Alberta target social gatherings, schools, restaurants, retail and gyms.

“These mandatory measures will place new restrictions on social gatherings, worship services, businesses, schools and all Albertans,” Premier Jason Kenney said, adding the restrictions weren’t determined lightly.

“We believe these are the minimum restrictions needed right now to safeguard our health-care system while avoiding widespread damage to peoples’ livelihood.”

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Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Alberta moves students in grades 7 -12 to at-home learning' Coronavirus: Alberta moves students in grades 7 -12 to at-home learning

Coronavirus: Alberta moves students in grades 7 -12 to at-home learning

Schools across the province will see students in Grades 7 to 12 moving to online learning until the new year beginning on Nov. 30. Students in kindergarten to Grade 6, and early childhood learning, will begin online learning in the new year, but will return to class after a few days.

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All students will return to classes on Jan. 11, 2021. The decision to extend the winter break is so any students who have been around family during the holidays will have a window to monitor for symptoms before returning to class.

Bhardwaj said he supports that decision, however, he added that now would be a good time for the government to take extra steps and throw more weight behind schools.

“Support the schools by implementing greater ventilation or different programs so that we can reduce the spread, or somehow funding them so that we can have smaller class sizes, so that when they do go back, they’re not just jumping back into the fire, so to speak,” he said.

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Click to play video 'COVID-19: Alberta makes masks mandatory in all indoor workplaces in Calgary, Edmonton and surrounding areas' COVID-19: Alberta makes masks mandatory in all indoor workplaces in Calgary, Edmonton and surrounding areas

COVID-19: Alberta makes masks mandatory in all indoor workplaces in Calgary, Edmonton and surrounding areas

Effective immediately, masks have been made mandatory in all indoor workplaces in the Calgary and Edmonton zones.

“I don’t understand why they did that by zone instead of saying anywhere where there are a certain amount of cases per population, masks will become mandatory. I think that would be much more evidence-based,” Bhardwaj said.

Read more: Alberta enacts 2nd COVID-19 state of public health emergency. Here’s what it means

Kenney said at the news conference on Tuesday that without these measures, thousands of surgeries and other health services would have to be cancelled.

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“Albertans must act together to protect the vulnerable,” the premier said.

Bhardwaj said he doesn’t think that the balance point the government has chosen is one that health-care workers would choose.

“They cannot bring people back to life,” he said.

“And that’s people dying of COVID(-19), but also potentially people dying of heart attacks that weren’t able to access the same treatment because the hospital is full of people suffering from COVID(-19).”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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