Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says the province will implement a proof of COVID-19 vaccination program, and reintroduce limits on gatherings as the province’s hospitals run out of capacity due to a surge in COVID-19 patients.
The province also declared a state of public health emergency on Sept. 15.
“We may run out of staff and intensive care beds within the next 10 days,” Kenney said.
“Unless we slow transmission, particularly amongst unvaccinated Albertans, we simply will not be able to provide adequate care to everyone who gets sick.”
The province is also asking for help from other provinces to use their intensive care beds and staff to help treat COVID-19 patients.
Alberta had resisted vaccine passport systems which have been implemented in other provinces, requiring people to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination before they are allowed to use non-essential services.
Kenney said he was reluctant to approve what he called a “restriction exemption program.”
“With unvaccinated patients overwhelming now our hospitals, this is now the only responsible choice that we have,” he said.
New restrictions will be implemented in the province starting on Sept. 20, requiring people to show proof of vaccination when entering non-essential businesses such as retail shops and restaurants.
There is an opt-out program available for businesses who don’t wish to use the proof-of-vaccine system. The program allows businesses to operate at reduced capacity with distancing rules and restrictions.
Other restrictions requiring reduced capacity at private social gatherings including weddings and funerals come into effect on Sept. 16.
Kenney offered an apology for moving the province too quickly from a pandemic to an endemic.
“We were wrong in talking about moving this from pandemic management to endemic management in July and August,” he said.
“I know that we had all hoped this summer that we could put COVID behind us once and for all, that was certainly my hope and I said that very clearly,” he added. “It is now clear that we were wrong, and for that I apologize.”
However, he said that he wasn’t sorry for lifting restrictions and ending intrusions in people’s lives.
“I also think it’s critically important to understand that at least in this society that you can’t sustain serious intrusions into people’s lives permanently. And so no, I don’t apologize for this decision to relax public health restrictions in the summer supported by the data.”
With files from The Canadian Press