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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney

Alberta had ‘no choice’ but to implement COVID-19 proof of vaccination measures: premier

Friday, September 17, 2021 @ 9:41 AM | By Ian Burns

Alberta has declared a state of public health emergency in the face of a rising fourth wave of COVID-19 in the province, with the provincial government of Jason Kenney doing a U-turn on its pledge to not bring in a proof of vaccination system.

Starting Sept. 20, Albertans over the age of 12 will be required to provide government-issued proof of immunization or a negative, privately paid COVID-19 test from within the previous 72 hours to access things like restaurants, bars and indoor organized events. If a business or service chooses not to require proof of vaccination, they will be required to adhere to strict new health measures. Proof of a single dose is acceptable until Oct. 25, provided it was given two weeks or more a person accessed the service.

 Premier Jason Kenney

Premier Jason Kenney

Kenney unveiled the new measures at a Sept. 15 press conference. He said Albertans were exhausted by the way COVID-19 has upended their lives, but the virus was an “an invisible and ever-changing foe and we have no choice but to face the grave threat of this fourth wave head-on.”

“We are taking necessary and critical steps to prevent our health system from being overwhelmed and once again slow the spread of COVID-19 in Alberta. These steps are not easy for anyone, but with COVID-19 hospitalizations continuing to rise, particularly amongst the unvaccinated, we have no choice but to implement the proof of vaccination measures and temporary restrictions,” he said. “We have overcome past COVID-19 waves and we will once again. I strongly urge anyone who has not yet been vaccinated to do so immediately. Please protect yourself, your loved ones and your community.”

The move to implement the new restrictions comes amidst reports that Alberta’s health-care system was facing a crisis, with the provincial health service being forced to cancel surgeries to preserve ICU capacity. The province unveiled widely criticized measures to lift restrictions earlier this summer.

Kenney, who previously said he would not support vaccine passports in the province, said the rising case count meant he was left with no choice. He also apologized for the government’s decision over the summer to treat COVID-19 as an “endemic” illness like the flu.

“COVID-19 is hitting Alberta harder than anywhere else in Canada because we have the lowest vaccination rate in Canada,” he said. “We all need to understand that the decision not to get vaccinated is not just a personal choice, it has real consequences for our whole society and for the ability of our hospitals to cope.”

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the new system will help increase vaccination rates across the province and protect Albertans in settings that pose a higher risk of transmission.

“We’ve seen from other jurisdictions that proof of vaccinations does help encourage people to get vaccinated, and I am calling on every eligible Albertan to get fully immunized as soon as possible,” he said.

In addition to the new proof of vaccination system, the government has also brought in mandatory work-from-home measures unless an employer has determined a physical presence is required. It is also limiting indoor private gatherings to a maximum of 10 people for fully-vaccinated individuals. Attendance at any indoor private social gathering is not permitted for vaccine-eligible individuals who have not gotten the jab.

“I know Albertans, especially those who have done everything they can to keep not only themselves but their fellow Albertans safe, are tired. But I’m asking you to please continue to do the right thing to help protect our health-care system and our communities,” said chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw. “Please continue to make safe choices, get vaccinated if you haven’t already, wash hands and stay home when ill. Together, we will protect our health system and each other.”

Approximately 79.5 per cent of eligible Albertans are now protected with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 71.4 per cent are fully vaccinated. The province reported 1,609 new COVID-19 cases Sept. 15.

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