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NDP says Kenney’s COVID-19 response pitted ‘economy against public health and failed at both’

Click to play video: 'Alberta imposes tough new restrictions, including mandated masks, ban on gatherings' Alberta imposes tough new restrictions, including mandated masks, ban on gatherings
WATCH: Amid amplified calls to impose tough pandemic protocols, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is relenting and laying down some tough new rules to get COVID-19 under control. Heather Yourex-West explains what the new measures are, how soon they take effect, and which businesses will be closing their doors – Dec 8, 2020

More significant restrictions announced by the Alberta government Tuesday could be effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19 but were implemented too late, according to the Opposition.

“We’re seeing the consequences of Premier Jason Kenney’s failure to provide leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” NDP leader Rachel Notley said.

“Kenney made a terrible decision to pit the economy against public health and he has failed at both.”

Read more: Alberta’s new COVID-19 measures ban in-person dining; retail to remain open

Notley said the premier had many opportunities to bring in stricter measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 and ease the pressure on Alberta’s health-care system.

“The lockdown announced today comes late,” she said. “We could have acted four weeks ago. Since then, an additional 317 people have died.”

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Notley added that in that time, intensive care volumes have gone up 300 per cent.

Read more: Alberta nurse practitioner describes ICU during pandemic: ‘We’re feeling a bit defeated’

She said Alberta’s COVID-19 case rates are higher than any other province’s when they announced similar lockdowns.

“All of us are staring down the barrel of the most restrictive Christmas we could imagine.”

Notley said instead of getting an appropriate public health response a month ago, Albertans got a premier who downplayed the virus, ignored pleas from front-line health care workers and physician groups, jeopardized health-care resources and hid information.

Click to play video: 'Alberta records 1,727 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday' Alberta records 1,727 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday
Alberta records 1,727 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday – Dec 8, 2020

Alberta announced more dramatic, province-wide restrictions on Tuesday. Those new rules include a complete ban on all indoor and outdoor social gatherings and an Alberta-wide mask mandate, effective immediately.

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Read more: Premier Jason Kenney defends Alberta’s new COVID-19 restrictions on 630 CHED

As of Dec. 13, a 15 per cent capacity limit for retail businesses and worship venues will take effect. Also as of Sunday, many non-essential businesses will be closed, including casinos, restaurants (for in-person dining), bars, fitness centres, libraries, museums and personal grooming businesses like hair and nail salons, massage clinics and tattoo and piercing parlours.

Effective Dec. 13, there is a mandatory work-from-home order. All workers must work from home unless their employer determines their in-person presence is required for “operational effectiveness.”

Click to play video: '‘We simply cannot let this Christmas turn into a tragedy’: Alberta premier' ‘We simply cannot let this Christmas turn into a tragedy’: Alberta premier
‘We simply cannot let this Christmas turn into a tragedy’: Alberta premier – Dec 8, 2020

The premier defended the timing of the latest measures, explaining every decision has a severe effect on Albertans’ mental, emotional, physical and financial stability. He said cabinet always considered balancing “livelihoods and lives” and that the second lockdown was a “last resort”; not a first option.

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As of Tuesday, there were 654 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, 112 of whom were in intensive care units.

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“That number has grown by 600 per cent since the last week of October,” Kenney said.

Alberta’s COVID-19 positivity rate sits at 9.41 per cent.

Read more: Alberta businesses react to new, tighter COVID-19 restrictions

Notley said the new measures “should have an impact” and urged everyone to follow them.

But, she said, with Alberta’s current case numbers, “more people are going to end up in the hospital… and there will be more pressure on our front-line workers in the next while.”

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The NDP leader said the government must take action to repair the health-care system, including fixing the contact-tracing system and bolstering the continuing care workforce, even if it means paying employees more.

“I know this is a very tough day,” Notley said. “We do know, however, that there’s a vaccine… We do understand it will take some time to immunize enough people against this deadly virus.

“Despite all the things we’re up against, I know the people of Alberta are strong, they’re resilient and we will get through all this.”

Read more: Edmonton COVID-19 committee recommends circuit-breaker lockdown amid rising cases, hospitalizations

Edmonton’s mayor said strong public health measures were clearly needed. And, while they will be challenging, there is support out there.

“These restrictions will be tough to bear — more so for vulnerable people in our community and for struggling businesses — but there is provincial, municipal and substantial federal aid available that should allow us all to do the right thing and follow these new public health measures to stop this virus,” Don Iveson said.

Click to play video: 'Alberta health minister calls restrictions necessary to ‘protect lives’' Alberta health minister calls restrictions necessary to ‘protect lives’
Alberta health minister calls restrictions necessary to ‘protect lives’ – Dec 8, 2020

Earlier Tuesday, Edmonton city council passed a motion “calling on the Alberta government to enact much stronger restrictions, based on clear, compelling expert advice from the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association.

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Read more: COVID-19: Will Albertans expect to see effects of health measures before Christmas?

“I believe these new province-wide measures meet that imperative,” the mayor said, urging all Edmontonians to follow the rules for everyone’s sake — now and through the holidays.

“Not too long from now, we’ll look back with pride at how we hibernated for health and, by our diligent actions, saved many lives and prevented an overload of the health system for those who still needed it.”

“We should have done this weeks ago and I’ve been saying that for weeks,” Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Tuesday on Global News Morning.

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The City of Calgary also issued a statement in support of the province’s new public health measures.

“I recognize that additional restrictions, especially at this time of year, carry a significant economic, mental, and social burden for Calgarians,” Nenshi said.

“But it is critical that we all do everything we can to keep our families, neighbours and communities safe.

“The safer we can keep each other, and the more we can control this virus, the better able we’ll be to return to normal as vaccines become available.”

Click to play video: 'Mayor Nenshi talks about the city’s pandemic response so far' Mayor Nenshi talks about the city’s pandemic response so far
Mayor Nenshi talks about the city’s pandemic response so far – Dec 8, 2020

In a Dec. 7 letter to Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro, the mayor of Banff asked that any further restrictions be applied to all areas under enhanced status, not just to Edmonton and Calgary.

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Read more: Banff ramps up testing as COVID-19 cases surge in tourist town

“Our community is currently struggling with our current case counts of COVID 19, and just like other urban areas, are facing a myriad of challenges related to the spread of this virus,” Mayor Karen Sorensen wrote.

Click to play video: 'Kenney says regional approach to COVID-19 is ‘not a viable option right now’' Kenney says regional approach to COVID-19 is ‘not a viable option right now’
Kenney says regional approach to COVID-19 is ‘not a viable option right now’ – Dec 8, 2020

Banff’s mayor said the community has recorded 96 per cent of its cases since the end of October.

“Active case count totals are obviously higher in both urban areas in the province, the per capita case counts are also something to pay close attention to,” she said. “Consistency across the province, rather than a patchwork approach, would be greatly appreciated.”

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