Alberta’s Official Opposition said Tuesday that the provincial government must “do more” as COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Edmonton and Calgary.
There are currently 4,477 active cases in the province; of those, there are 1,549 in the Calgary zone and the Edmonton zone has 2,179.
NDP Leader Rachel Notley outlined six “non-restrictive” measures, including halting the layoffs of 11,000 health-care workers and increasing the number of contact tracers, that the Opposition believes the government should immediately implement to help control the situation in Alberta.
“These are six proactive steps that the government can take today,” Notley said.
“They don’t need to restrict the lives or livelihoods of Albertans in taking these steps. In fact, they reduce the chance of economic restrictions going further.”
Measures the NDP pushed for also include having a faster turnaround time for test results, implementing the national COVID-19 tracing app, introducing a COVID-19 risk index for businesses and setting out a provincial staffing strategy for continuing care facilities.
The office of the premier declined to comment on the NDP’s demands when asked by Global News Tuesday.
Notley made the demands at a news conference Tuesday, saying she believes Kenney is “failing to take action that will help keep Alberta’s economy open.”
Notley said that the 11,000 layoffs planned by the government create “chaos in the hospitals where they work because he is prepping to cut their salaries, eliminate their pensions, and in many cases, fire them.”
Those layoffs led to a mass of health-care workers marching across the province Monday, but they are now back to work after the Alberta Labour Relations Board ruled they acted illegally when walking off the job.
With faster test results, the NDP wants the government to publicly report wait time estimates and increase the number of contract tracers available in the province.
On Monday, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said the province currently has 800 contract tracers but is working to increase that number.
“AHS is increasing their staffing as quickly as possible, and they are actively recruiting more people to meet these increasing demands,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.
Notley said she believes contract tracing is key for slowing the spread of the virus.
“Albertans who have not been informed that they’ve been exposed to somebody with COVID are still walking around, potentially spreading the infection,” Notley said.
The NDP said the provincial government also needs to step up and get Albertans access to the national tracing app, which is currently available in eight provinces.
The UCP had said in August the province would be switching over but it has still not launched.
“It is really unacceptable that almost three months have gone by since the Alberta government agreed to adopt this national tracing app… but just can’t make it work when eight other provinces already can and already have,” Notley said.
Another demand the NDP wants is a COVID-19 risk index to be launched that would tell businesses the level of risk they face while open amid the pandemic.
Notley also called for a provincial staffing strategy for continuing care facilities, saying that outbreaks at these spots could lead to a “collapse in staffing levels” as employees face the risk of getting sick.
Hinshaw said Monday it’s important to find the balance between introducing restrictions that slow the spread of COVID-19 and preventing Albertans from being negatively impacted in other ways.
Also Monday, the province announced it was restricting gathering sizes in Edmonton and Calgary to 15, except for weddings, funerals and structured gathering places like restaurants, theatres and places of worship.
–With files from The Canadian Press and Kirby Bourne, Global News