On Sunday afternoon, Alberta Health reported 950 new COVID-19 cases over the previous 24-hour period.
The province also reported 600 additional variant cases, with 38 per cent of the active cases in Alberta now being variants of concern.
On Saturday, Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw tweeted Saturday there was a significant outbreak in the province relating to the P.1 variant, which was first discovered in Brazil. Hinshaw said the outbreak was linked to a traveller but did not provide further information.
The province said it would provide an update on the situation on Monday.
Mount Royal University political science professor Lori Williams called the vague tweet “unwise.”
“We’re reliant on (the government) for information and also to answer questions. To simply put out a tweet that raises concerns and doesn’t answer any questions raises the level of anxiety quite unnecessarily,” Williams said.
According to infectious disease Dr. Lynora Saxinger, the vaccines available in Canada do protect against the P.1 variant.
“Based on the lab data, we think the vaccines will offer some protection against this variant. But we don’t have firm, observed numbers in a community setting,” she said.
Medical experts say variants, including P.1, are more transmissible, which means preventative measures have to be followed more strictly.
“The transmissibility of all of them ranges in the one-and-a-half to two times more transmissible for all the variants of concern. The only one I have seen good data suggesting the disease itself is worse in terms of severity or more likely to cause death is actually the U.K. variant,” Saxinger said.
The new cases reported Sunday came from 11,200 tests performed on Saturday, resulting in a provincial positivity rate of eight per cent.
On April 3, 8,000 vaccine doses were administered and a total of 693,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered as of Sunday.
The province said hospitalizations remained stable over the previous 24 hours.
The province said it will provide a daily death breakdown on Monday.
Sunday’s 600 additional variant cases were the highest in Alberta since the start of the pandemic, and daily cases were above 1,000 on Friday and Saturday for the first time since early January.
On Thursday, Premier Jason Kenney said the province was in a new wave in its battle against the virus but stopped short of implementing new restrictions to battle the surge.
It has some experts questioning the strategy.
“I feel we’re in the same position, that once this long weekend is over, you’re going to see tighter restrictions coming in, just like we’re seeing in much of the rest of the country,” Mount Royal political science professor Duane Bratt said.
Last week, B.C., Ontario and Quebec all instituted additional measures, but Kenney put the onus on Albertans to follow current restrictions.
“I think, in various respects, the premier is fumbling this,” University of Calgary health law policy expert Lorain Hardcastle said. “In Alberta, there have been issues all along with a lack of consistency, and I think his personal responsibility mantra is not working. People know it’s not working.”
“Hopefully, people are seeing the number of cases rising and that we’re not quite out of the woods yet,” infectious diseases physician Dr. Stephanie Smith said. “We’re going to see that exponential rise just as we did in our second wave, so we are prepared in the hospital setting for that surge.”