Alberta health minister rejects suggestions province too lax with coronavirus restrictions

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro is rejecting suggestions his province’s spiking coronavirus cases are the result of not moving quickly or toughly enough in slapping restrictions on the public.

His comments in an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson come as the province continues to see record daily case counts and after Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has urged the province to take “bold action” to get a grip on rapidly-spreading infections.

“Do you think that the criticism that others have made in the political realm, that Alberta has put individual freedom and prosperity ahead of health, is warranted?” Stephenson asked.

“No, it’s not at all,” said Shandro. “The measures that we have imposed so far have been looking at the evidence that we see not just in Alberta, but also throughout the world, including in Asia and Europe and in the United States.”

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“With all due respect, you put them in much later than other provinces and in many cases still don’t have the same number of restrictions that Quebec or Ontario do,” Stephenson asked.

Read more: Alberta sets another daily COVID-19 record with 1,854 new cases

Shandro defended the decision to keep retail open and to continue to allow indoor dining at restaurants.

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He said the province hasn’t seen evidence of a high enough rate of spread among those facilities to warrant shutting them down.

The main worry we have this time is in social gatherings. And that’s exactly where we directed our measures when we announced previously and where we’ll continue to review that evidence with our public health officials.”

Alberta brought in a second state of public health emergency in response to the rising cases on Nov. 24.

The province’s restrictions brought in at that time included sending high school students home to learn virtually, forbidding in-person socializing in the home with non-residents of that home, and allowing Albertans to eat only with their household if they choose to dine at restaurants.

But the province only imposed a mandatory mask policy for indoor workplaces at that time.

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Read more: COVID-19: Alberta is the only province without a mask mandate. What is the impact on public perception?

Shandro said the government is waiting to see whether existing measures have an effect before deciding whether to impose more.

“It’s going to take 10 to 14 days for the effects of a measure to be understood,” he said. “That’s why we need some time after the previous measures were announced for us to be able to see whether there were changes in our communities and if there were any reductions in our case numbers.”

Nenshi, however, has argued the time for waiting is up.

In an interview with Global News Morning Calgary on Nov. 23, Nenshi said the time for acting has come.

“There’s no more time to try to figure out a data-driven solution here,” he said. “It’s clear that more needs to be done and quickly or the health system will be overwhelmed very fast.”

The number of active cases in the province has more than tripled in the span of just over one month.

Click to play video 'Alberta sets another daily COVID-19 record with 1,854 new cases' Alberta sets another daily COVID-19 record with 1,854 new cases

Alberta sets another daily COVID-19 record with 1,854 new cases

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