|A group of more than 430 Alberta physicians and three major health-care unions have signed a letter to Premier Jason Kenney on Thursday endorsing the idea of a „circuit-breaker” targeted lockdown as cases of COVID-19 continue to surge in the province. „There is no more time. We have to act now,” said Dr. Tehseen Ladha, who co-authored the letter.
Alberta’s government is expected to introduce further restrictions later today. Kenney and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, have scheduled a news conference for 5:30 p.m. ET. Though restrictions were not final as of Wednesday, officials said the measures were expected to be in line with the premier’s messaging over the past few weeks, involving modest and targeted measures — moves that officials emphasized do not constitute a lockdown.
In the letter, the signatories said they feel it is their duty to warn of the „impending health system crisis” resulting from the spread of COVID-19 in Alberta. „We have reached a juncture where only strong and decisive mandatory measures can prevent our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed,” the letter reads. Those measures, which the letter said should be time-limited, include directives to work from home for those who are able, the limiting of contacts to those within the household or a support bubble and the suspension of group indoor activities. Schools should be kept open for in-person learning, the letter said, „due to their vital importance.”
Ladha said the group is not calling for the closure of retail businesses given that there’s little evidence of the virus spreading in such settings. The letter goes on to cite Alberta’s rise in cases, high levels of test positivity and intensive care unit (ICU) admissions. In the view of the doctors, a circuit-breaker targeted lockdown would consist of strict, time-limited measures that would help prevent a complete lockdown should the health system become overwhelmed. „The time for incremental measures has passed, and voluntary measures, requested Oct. 9, have not blunted the rise in cases,” the letter read. „Our testing system is strained, and contact tracing [capabilities] have collapsed.”
CBC News reported Wednesday that Hinshaw could introduce mandatory measures such as reduced business hours or capacity limits for businesses, worship services and fitness classes. The restrictions would be a reversal in tactics for the province. Last week, Kenney spoke strongly against bringing in mandatory constraints, instead urging „personal responsibility” when it comes to attending parties or hosting social gatherings. The province’s doctors said that half-measures won’t have enough impact. „We need something strong and mandatory in order to bend the curve,” Ladha said.