On Wednesday, Alberta’s chief medical officer held a information convention to speak about one thing apart from COVID-19. It wasn’t excellent news.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw stated Alberta has reported Canada’s first confirmed case of H1N2v, a variant of the swine flu virus present in people. Oh, boy.
As if Alberta, and everybody else, wasn’t already exhausted by the pandemic, we’ve one other virus in our midst.
The encouraging bit of stories is that whereas H1N2v is widespread amongst pigs, it’s uncommon in people — solely 27 instances have been reported globally since 2005. And the one that contracted the illness in central Alberta final month skilled gentle signs and recovered rapidly. Well being officers are looking for the supply of the virus, and it doesn’t seem anyone else was contaminated.
However Hinshaw’s non-COVID information convention did trigger a little bit of a stir in a province coping with an alarming rise within the variety of COVID instances. Albertans may very well be forgiven for considering that 2020, a yr that has been unkind to all people, has a selected hate-on for his or her province.
One might argue that Alberta has been hit tougher than some other jurisdiction within the nation this yr, with an financial system slammed by the triple whammy of the pandemic, a recession, and oil costs that truly went unfavourable at one level. And specialists predict that, due to Alberta’s reliance on power costs, its battered financial system would be the slowest to get better.
That’s why the Alberta authorities has been eager to level to any bit of fine information, irrespective of how faint. Final week, a authorities minister leaked phrase to information media that the provincial authorities was within the early phases of negotiations with an unnamed personal Saudi Arabian firm to construct a $5-billion petrochemical plant in Alberta. That is so preliminary as to be a fingers-crossed, wishful-thinking, pie-in-the-sky notion, however Alberta has a authorities understandably determined to search out the merest glimmer of a silver lining within the relentless storm clouds overhead.
In that vein, the Alberta authorities is touting a brand new experimental program that began this week, with assist from the federal authorities, to dramatically shorten the quarantine interval for worldwide travellers arriving at Calgary Worldwide Airport and on the Coutts border crossing with Montana.
The travellers are being examined for COVID after they arrive, and ordered to quarantine themselves whereas the take a look at outcomes are fast-tracked inside a day or two. If unfavourable, they don’t should quarantine for the standard 14 days, so long as they keep in contact with well being officers and take a look at unfavourable once more after six days.
If profitable, this system shall be expanded to Edmonton Worldwide Airport and presumably throughout the nation subsequent yr.
“We merely should transfer ahead to develop insurance policies to facilitate secure journey,” stated Premier Jason Kenney when saying the pilot program. “Although a whole lot of work lies forward, we are able to see a return to regular journey.”
That’s the phrase Kenney likes to repeat: “return to regular.” Not only for journey, however for just about the whole lot else.
Nevertheless, Alberta isn’t returning to regular, irrespective of how a lot Kenney — and all people else — would really like it to.
Based on Hinshaw, Alberta is at a “essential juncture,” because it experiences an alarming rise within the variety of instances. The every day common depend this week hit greater than 550. That’s not counting final Thursday’s document 622 instances.
The variety of COVID sufferers in hospital has by no means been larger. Alberta’s an infection fee is bigger than Ontario’s and each different province besides Manitoba. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the province is on monitor to have 1,000 new instances a day.
However Kenney doesn’t wish to introduce the identical sorts of restrictions seen in different provinces.
Whereas defending his authorities’s pandemic response, Kenney says he’s “obsessively targeted on financial progress.” He’s afraid a lockdown would undermine an already shaky financial system.
Kenney insists he’s following Hinshaw’s recommendation, however at instances, he has erroneously referred to COVID-19 as an “influenza of this nature.”
He’s additionally in a battle with Alberta’s docs, has resumed a contract battle with the province’s nurses, and introduced the contracting out of 11,000 health-support jobs.
And his authorities appears nearly petulantly against signing on to the federal authorities’s COVID Alert app on smartphones to assist warn individuals in the event that they’ve been uncovered to the virus. A number of months in the past, provincial officers stated they had been on the lookout for methods to transition individuals from the Alberta-based app to the federal app that’s being utilized in eight different provinces. However now Kenney, resorting to his default place of criticizing the federal Liberal authorities, doesn’t appear excited by adopting the app in any respect, saying the Alberta system is healthier.
That prompted Prime Minister Trudeau, in a uncommon look on a Calgary radio station final week, to accuse the Alberta authorities of blocking use of the federal app within the province.
“(The app) shall be much more helpful when the province decides to offer individuals the power to plug within the codes,” stated Trudeau, declaring that the federal app will alert individuals who journey from province to province. “That’s all that’s lacking, and we actually hope that individuals will tackle each device we presumably can to battle COVID-19.”
The Alberta authorities denies it’s taking part in petty politics, however when pressed on the matter in query interval by the NDP final week, some cupboard ministers shot again with a heckle, referring to the federal program dismissively as “Trudeau’s app.”
When the pandemic first hit final March, Kenney made some extent of letting science drive politics, setting up a sequence of measures that restricted individuals’s actions, slowed the financial system, and ballooned the provincial deficit to $24 billion.
Now, Kenney is “obsessively targeted on financial progress,” and hoping for a “return to regular,” which incorporates slicing authorities spending, bashing the federal authorities, and combating with health-care employees.
That’s left him open to every day criticism from the NDP opposition and docs that, relating to combating the pandemic, Kenney is placing politics forward of science.
MORE THOMSON: Kenney trapped in a pressure cooker of his own making
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