Canada 'Hit a wall': Kenney relents on vaccine passports to mitigate Alberta hospitals 'grave' collapse
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The concept of 'vaccine passports' were first introduced last year, when COVID-19 vaccines were still undergoing clinical tests in laboratories run by pharmaceutical giants.Liberals cancelled a campaign stop in Ontario due to "safety concerns." A sign depicted Trudeau being executed by hanging emerged, held by a member of the crowd. And on Tuesday, protesters began hurling small rocks.
EDMONTON —The Alberta government’s opposition to bringing in a proof of vaccination program has collided with reality, says Premier Jason Kenney.
“I thought that the best way to persuade the vaccine hesitant to come forward was through persuasion and not by making people feel they were being compelled to do so. Unfortunately that has not worked,” Kenney said Friday morning. “So, we regrettably came to the conclusion that the only way to cut viral transmission, without destroying businesses, people’s livelihoods, was a program like this.”
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On Wednesday night, the Alberta government announced its version of a vaccine passport, which sees businesses receive an exemption from pandemic restrictions if they implement either rapid testing checks or vaccination checks.
It comes as the Alberta medical system is within roughly a week of collapse, according to government projections, and that could lead to doctors implementing a triage protocol. Simply put: doctors will decide who gets treatment, and who dies, when they arrive at ER doors in the province. The government is doing its best to plan ahead, Kenney said, praising the health-care workers who are “pulling out all the stops.”
“It’s a very grave situation,” Kenney said.
Already, thousands of surgeries have been cancelled to free up hospital beds — and staff — to treat those in hospital, largely, the government has said, the unvaccinated. As of Wednesday, there were nearly 19,000 active cases, 896 people in hospital, and 222 of them in intensive care.
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“I can’t imagine the frustration of people whose surgeries have been postponed even after previous postponements,” Kenney said.
But, regardless of the United Conservative government enacting, essentially, the program that critics have been demanding for weeks, there is still considerable anger among the Opposition New Democrats and members of the public.
Just one component of this anger is the belief that Kenney’s government waited as long as possible to announce new restrictions out of the belief that doing so would harm Erin O’Toole and the federal Conservatives’ chance at forming government. Indeed, on Thursday morning, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals seized on the crisis in Alberta, hammering O’Toole for having previously praised Kenney’s handling of the pandemic.
“We weren’t going to let politics get (in the way),” Kenney said. “The federal Liberals have specifically been trying to politicize COVID while frequently and flagrantly violating public-health restrictions around the country, but we’re just focused on one thing, which is protecting our health-care system.”
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EDMONTON — The Alberta government was apparently so keen to avoid bringing in vaccine passports, or as it likes to call them out here, a “restriction exemption program,” that it waited until the last possible minute , ensuring not only would we be subject to one, but also to new restrictions on schools, onerous limits on private gatherings and caps on weddings and funerals — and all just in time for the health-care system to still collapse. It is the best of all COVID worlds. © Provided by National Post Alberta Premier Jason Kenney during a news conference regarding the surging COVID cases in the province in Calgary on Wednesday, September 15, 2021.
On Wednesday, Kenney offered up an apology to Albertans, saying he was too enthusiastic, for too long, in keeping restrictions lifting, and for the province’s aborted plan to move from pandemic management to endemic management, which would have considered COVID-19 a background disease in society, and tackled it as it cropped up. But, he declined to apologize for lifting restrictions back in July, saying the evidence at the time said it was safe to do so.
But what’s before the premier now is the path forward.
Throughout the pandemic, there have been rustles from within his caucus from members who are mad about the way the government has handled the crisis, including those who believe the government has gone too far, and those who believe he’s not done enough. Indeed, Richard Gotfried, a Calgary MLA, wrote on Facebook that the UCP had “30 days notice that a crisis was looming and nothing was done.”
“It’s no secret that we have the full, almost a full range of opinions, on how best to address COVID within our caucus,” said Kenney. “But at the end of the day, the government is responsible for making these decisions based on the public health advice.”
Vaccine mandates and passports loom large in the election's final days
The controversy over whether the federal government should require vaccinations for some people or implement a vaccine passport system is playing a role in some key swing ridings, including King-Vaughan in the Greater Toronto Area. "That's what we're hearing — 'I'm vaccinated, I'm comfortable, why do I have to get a passport?' That's a question that's asked daily," Anna Roberts, the Conservative candidate in King-Vaughan, told The House for a segment airing Saturday. Roberts is looking to take a seat that Liberal Deb Schulte won by just a few percentage points in the last two elections.
Critical to the way forward is the vaccination rate. Nearly 72 per cent of all eligible Albertans have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly 80 per cent have received one dose. But there’s considerable variation across the province: One part of Edmonton boasts a full vaccination rate of 84 per cent, but in northwestern Alberta, in the High Level area, just 20.1 per cent of Albertans have two doses; and just 23.9 per cent have one dose.
The government, he says, has tried many things, such as enlisting local politicians, church leaders, pharmacists and doctors, since the problem is “disproportionately rural.”
“We tried pretty much everything,” he said. “In some of that population, you seem to have hit a wall.”
Kenney says he believes the vaccine passport is going to be effective in convincing younger Albertans to get vaccinated — those between 20 and 35 are languishing at less than 70 per cent with a single dose, and less than 61 per cent with both doses.
“The proof of vaccination program … it seems to be pretty effective at getting the attention of that cohort, who want to socialize, they want to go out to bars, and it inconveniences their social life if they don’t get vaccinated.”
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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney battles COVID-19 hospital crisis, internal party revolt .
EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, facing a mushrooming COVID-19 hospital crisis that now threatens to topple him as leader, accepted the resignation of his health minister Tuesday. Kenney said it was Tyler Shandro’s idea to leave the health portfolio. "Minister Shandro offered his resignation. He and I both came to the conclusion that it would be best to get a fresh pair of eyes and a fresh start at the health ministry," Kenney said. HeKenney said it was Tyler Shandro’s idea to leave the health portfolio.