Alberta doctors call for lockdown or circuit breaker, say COVID-19 restrictions won’t be enough

Doctors in Edmonton and Calgary are calling for a strict, financially-supported lockdown or circuit breaker in Alberta, saying the restrictions announced Tuesday will not be enough to bend the curve of COVID-19.

Doctors with the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association (EZMA) and the Calgary and Area Medical Staff Society (CAMSS) held a joint press conference Wednesday, the day after Premier Jason Kenney announced the province was reverting back to Step 1 of its public health restrictions including reducing retail capacity, closing indoor dining and placing stricter rules on gyms and other activities.

Dr. Shazma Mithani, an emergency room doctor at both Edmonton’s Royal Alexandra Hospital and Stollery Children’s Hospital, said Alberta needs actions similar to the four-week stay-at-home order Ontario announced Wednesday afternoon.

“We are asking that people only leave their homes for essential services, they only have contact with members of their own household or their for their cohorts. We also ask the government to ask AHS environmental inspectors to have stronger enforcement of the restrictions and issue tickets … for those who are not following the public health guidelines,” Mithani said.

The group is also calling for an acceleration of the vaccine program particularly for non-AHS staff who are directly involved with patients. That includes people who draw blood, community physicians, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, and frontline and essential workers.

“These essential workers are disproportionately affected by this third wave of COVID and so it’s now time to protect those who protect us,” Mithani said.

Dr. James Talbot said the restrictions announced by Kenney could potentially slow the rise of cases.

“But what modelling shows is that it’s not enough to bring the numbers down. They’ll rise more slowly, but they’re not going to come down,” he said.

Gosia Gasperowicz, a developmental biologist at the University of Calgary, said Alberta would need restrictions as strong as New Zealand and Australia have imposed to substantially and quickly bend the curve.

“Basically a financially-supported lockdown,” she said.

At a minimum, Gasperowicz said the province needs measures more reminiscent of the spring shutdown last year, which included the closure of non-essential services and in-person schooling.

On Tuesday, Kenney said he believes the previous measures would have been enough if people would have complied with them, but there was growing evidence of non-compliance from “COVID fatigue.”

“Unfortunately, we are continuing to see accelerated growth driven by the variants and concluded that these additional measures were necessary,” Kenney said.

More to come

With files from Anna Junker and Canadian Press