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COVID-19: Medical experts, restaurant owner raising concerns about lifting restrictions in Alberta

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COVID-19: Medical experts, restaurant owner raising concerns about lifting restrictions in Alberta
Some doctors are warning about plans to lift provincial health restrictions in Alberta and Saskatchewan. The premiers of both provinces have stated that vaccine requirements will be eliminated soon. But as Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, some infectious disease experts say now is not the time – Feb 6, 2022

Some doctors are warning about plans to lift provincial health restrictions in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The premiers of both provinces have stated that vaccine requirements will be eliminated soon.

Read more: Saskatchewan to end proof of vaccination, negative test ‘very soon,’ premier says

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney reinforced his message on the Roy Green Show on Saturday, saying a plan will be released early this week to lift nearly all public health measures.

“It will be data-based. It will be cautious, but it will be moving us back to getting our life back to normal to the greatest extent possible,” Kenney said.

“We will be making decisions and releasing a plan to lift almost all public health measures. We will be releasing that plan early this week, and it will start with lifting the proof of vaccination program.”

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But some health experts say it’s too soon.

“I think we haven’t got to the time in Canada, and certainly not in Saskatchewan and not an Alberta, where we should be talking about lifting these policies because it works. It works to keep people safe and also it helps to boost the booster doses of vaccines,” said University of Saskatchewan epidemiologist Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine.

“We are still at one of the highest, if not the highest, hospitalization rates, so I find it curious on what the science or the rationale is to be musing about lifting this policy.”

Read more: Alberta marks 26 COVID-19 deaths reported Friday; AHS to allow visitors to bring N95s

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 in Alberta remained at 1,584 on Friday. That’s the same number reported on Thursday.

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The hospitalization rate is still hovering around the highest number recorded during the entire pandemic.

“From a medical and from a public health perspective, this is not optimal by any means,” said Dr. Alexander Wong, a Regina infectious disease physician, about the possibility of lifting restrictions.

He worries that removing the Restrictions Exemption Program could lead to vaccine uptake stalling.

“Which unfortunately means that our provinces (Alberta and Saskatchewan) are probably going to end up being more vulnerable at the end of the day compared to other provinces with higher vaccine uptake and frankly, more faith in public health messaging,” Wong said.

Read more: COVID-19 hospitalizations in Alberta may be beginning to plateau: Hinshaw

The owner of Winebar Kensington in Calgary is concerned that lifting all restrictions could lead to a repeat of what happened in summer 2021 in Alberta.

“I’m happy to support (COVID-19 restrictions) still moving forward until patios are open and people can stay outside a little bit more,” said owner Cam Dobranski. “Let’s open up responsibly because I don’t want to be shut down again.”

In Alberta, restaurants must comply with the province’s Restrictions Exemption Program, limit tables to 10 people and stop serving alcohol by 11 p.m.

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