Alberta doctor calls for interprovincial travel restrictions to prevent spread of new COVID-19 variant

CALGARY –

Premier Jason Kenney says he is supporting the federal government’s decision to ban all foreign nationals from entering Canada from several southern African countries but a prominent emergency room doctor says Alberta should take additional steps.

In a tweet, the premier says he agrees with the new restrictions and that Canada must not repeat the “mistake of its open border policy at the start of the pandemic.”

Dr. Joe Vipond, a Calgary emergency room doctor, says that more needs to be done at a provincial level as the variant has already spread outside of South Africa. He’s encouraging the provincial government to put its own travel restrictions in place.

“Certainly what was done in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and P.E.I. in the past, works,” said Vipond.

During previous waves of the pandemic, travellers to Atlantic Canada were required to quarantine for two weeks and take rapid tests.

Vipond adds that he doesn’t believe Alberta’s government “has the stomach” to enforce interprovincial travel restrictions, but that they would help prevent the new variant from spreading into the province.

The announcement of the new variant comes as the province’s COVID-19 case counts have started to rise.

Vipond says the restrictions that have been in place since mid-September have done a good job at preventing spread, but the return of colder weather has more people gathering indoors and case numbers are increasing week-over-week.

“That’s worrisome, because it means the policies that we have in place are not currently working,” explained Vipond. “It’s not that the government is doing anything wrong, it’s just that we aren’t doing enough for the situation we’re in now.”

Vipond says to get our current situation under control, more measures should be brought into place. He suggests making masks mandatory in schools at all times, and making rapid testing readily available to the general public.

“All those mitigation measures that work for old things, including ventilation and masks, have worked in the past and should work for the new variant. Until we know more about Omicron, we should continue to try and vaccinate as many people as possible, and increase public health measures to try and reduce virus spread.”

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