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Alberta pediatricians urge premier to bring in tighter COVID-19 restrictions to better protect children

Alberta pediatricians urge premier to bring in tighter COVID-19 restrictions to better protect children image
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Alberta’s pediatricians are urging Premier Jason Kenney to immediately bring in new public-health measures to better protect children from COVID-19.

The doctors, in a public letter, say the dominance of the more infectious virus variants can have serious health consequences for the young, such as a pediatric illness that causes inflammation of body organs including the heart and brain.

Read more: Variants in Alberta schools: An in-depth look at climbing cases and spread

They also said even mild COVID cases can lead to much larger problems down the road, such as seizures, gastrointestinal problems and heart palpitations.

“Although 25 per cent of Albertans have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccination, we have a long way to go until herd immunity,” said the letter, written on behalf of 300 pediatricians with the Alberta Medical Association.

“Children under 12 years old will be unable to receive the vaccine for the foreseeable future, and cases in children are increasing.”

The doctors are urging Kenney to further shut down businesses and provide supports, including paid sick leave, to those affected.

Read more: Pfizer-BioNTech could test vaccine on kids as young as 6 months by September

The letter comes as the province approaches record levels of active COVID-19 cases, with two-thirds of them the more contagious variants.

As of Wednesday, there were 20,938 cases. That’s 711 cases below the existing record set during COVID’s second wave in mid-December.

There are 643 people in hospital, including 145 in intensive care. Hospitals are bracing for a surge in cases as there is a two-week lag between infections and hospitalizations.

Read more: AHS to discuss COVID-19 triage framework with staff if faced with ‘dire situation’

Edmonton, Calgary, and northern zone hospitals are cutting non-emergency surgeries by as much as 30 per cent to free up resources for COVID cases.

Click to play video: Surgeries to be reduced in 3 Alberta health zones as COVID-19 cases surge

Grade 7-12 students in Calgary and Edmonton are working from home due to COVID rates and staff shortages. The area around Fort McMurray, along with Banff and Lake Louise, will be getting extra vaccines starting next week to reduce case spikes.

Kenney has not brought in new provincewide health restrictions since April 6. There have been more than 1,000 new COVID cases every day since.

On Monday, Kenney said existing restrictions would suffice if more people would follow them, adding that Albertans are so COVID-fatigued, any new rules would likely be ignored.

On Wednesday, Kenney said his government was considering new restrictions specifically targeted to hot spots like Fort McMurray and Banff.

Click to play video: Kenney says recent increase in COVID-19 cases in Alberta are related to socialization

He characterized restrictions as useful but also a hit-and-miss proposition, saying that when you examine other jurisdictions, stricter rules have not automatically led to reduced cases.

“The notion that there’s a direct linear relationship between restrictions and viral spread is not the experience of this pandemic,” said Kenney.

Opposition NDP health critic David Shepherd said Kenney is making health decisions for political reasons. After the April 6 restrictions, 17 of Kenney’s United Conservative backbenchers spoke out against the rules as an unnecessary infringement on personal freedoms.

Kenney has not sanctioned the backbenchers, saying he respects free speech.

Read more: Jason Kenney defends his leadership amid calls within UCP for his resignation

Shepherd said Kenney, facing low poll numbers, is loath to bring in any new health measures or confront his in-house critics because that would risk fracturing his fragile caucus and imperil his leadership.

“We have an utter lack of leadership from this premier, someone who continually undermines the very rules we need in place to save lives,” said Shepherd.

Alberta is currently not allowing indoor social gatherings and outdoor get-togethers are limited to 10 people.

Retails stores are limited to 15 per cent capacity. Restaurants can serve diners only on outdoor patios. Entertainment and recreation venues remain closed.

Read more: Infant becomes youngest person to die from COVID-19 in B.C.

Kenney has said the rollout of vaccines is critical to getting Alberta through the third wave.

On Wednesday, he accused the federal government, which is in charge of acquiring vaccines, of putting the province in its current predicament.

“We didn’t have adequate (vaccine) supply in the first three months of this year,” said Kenney.

“That gave the variants time to spread, and that’s how we ended up in this third wave.”

About 1.5 million Albertans have received at least one dose of vaccine.

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