Edmonton doctors call on province to implement lockdowns and enforcement of COVID-19 public health measures

A group of Edmonton doctors expressed an urgent need for Alberta Premier Jason Kenney to implement stronger public health restrictions as COVID-19 cases and variants continue to rise.

The Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association (EZMSA) sent a letter to Kenney Thursday urging him to “immediately” place the province in a lockdown, “accelerate” COVID-19 immunization, and instruct Alberta Health Services inspectors and their enforcement partners to “vigorously” enforce individuals or groups breaching public health directives.

EZMSA said that while a lockdown has significant impacts on businesses and individuals, the group predicts that hospitals and ICUs in the province will be overwhelmed before the end of April should no new measures be put in place.

“A rapid and effective response by the province is vital,” the letter said. “Even if public health protective measures were strengthened today, we will still see more than double the number of cases per day two weeks from now.”

Dr. James Talbot, co-chair of the EZMSA strategic COVID-19 pandemic committee, said in an interview with CTV News Edmonton that EZMSA has been predicting for four weeks now that variants would drive a significant third wave of COVID-19 cases.

Kenney pleaded to Albertans on Thursday to follow public health restrictions as the weather improved and the Easter long weekend began.

READ MORE: No loosening of restrictions for Easter long weekend as Alberta continues to shatter COVID-19 case records

Dr. Talbot said relying solely on personal responsibility is not enough to help stop the spread of COVID-19, especially the more virulent variants.

“Personal responsibility is absolutely key in the sense that when you do the right things you reduce your risk in a way that doesn’t depend on anyone else,” he said.

“In both the previous waves prompt effective government action was important in bringing the waves under control.”

For Dr. Talbot, when government takes responsibility and leadership in applying restrictions it actually amplifies any personal responsibility narratives.

“When individuals look and say, ‘well government isn’t acting the way that I would expect them to act if this is serious, so I am not going to take it seriously,’ then you are in trouble.”

According to Dr. Talbot, modelling the EZMSA is using to predict COVID-19 cases is showing concerning trends. In the second wave, EZMSA predicted cases to double every 14 days. Now, with new variant cases their modelling is showing COVID-19 cases doubling every eight to 10 days.

“That is significantly faster,” Dr. Talbot said.

“This thing is going to move fast and it causes more serious illness and it affects people who are younger.”

That is why Talbot believes there needs to not only be lockdowns and stronger public health measures but also enforcement of regulations.

“You have to enforce the regulations if they are going to mean anything.”