‘This third wave is going to affect everybody’: calls for nation-wide lockdown as COVID variants take hold

COVID-19 variants of concern are spreading fast in many Canadian provinces. Leading up to the Easter long weekend, variants of concern made up one-third of Alberta’s cases total cases.

“It’s going to hit people who felt really reassured that they weren’t going to be hit because they weren’t vulnerable and they now are,” Dr. Christine Gibson.

Gibson is a family physician, professor and member of the advocacy group ‘Go 4 Zero Alberta’.

With cases on the rise once again, there was speculation tighter health measures would be imposed by the government. Instead, a plea from Premier Jason Kenney.

"Please, please follow Alberta’s health restrictions and guidelines this weekend and in the weeks to come,” he said during Thursday’s news conference.

Not what Dr. Gibson wanted or expected to hear.

“He was pleading for personal accountability and for people to look after each other but that’s not what we’ve been seeing,” she said.

“We’ve been seeing people who’ve been restricted for a year and they’re exhausted and they’re tired and their mental health is suffering. We understand that too, I mean we’re also human and it’s really,really hard but the problem is we’re not out of the woods yet.”

Dr. Gibson said the only way to get ahead of the variants is a full lockdown.

“If we had lockdown when the variant started the community spread a few weeks ago we would have been six weeks, maybe eight weeks of a lockdown. Now we’re looking at closer to 12 weeks to get this under control,” she said.

“If people manage to hold on for a few months longer until we can get these vaccines in people before the variants win we’ll be in really good shape.”

The premier didn’t rule out targeted or tighter measures in the future but said non-compliance is an issue.

“Compliance with the measures matters far more than the stringency of them,” Kenney said Thursday.

“We could have UK style hard lockdown which is sounds you might prefer on paper but if no one’s respecting the rules it doesn’t matter.” 

Small businesses are relieved new restrictions weren’t imposed.

“We have been fortunate for retail businesses here in Alberta,” said Annie Dormuth with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. 

“We still kind of have restrictions that are greatly impacting certain industries, again the hospitality as well as the fitness industry. We also have to remember there are still businesses completely closed,” she said.

Dormuth said if another round of restrictions or a complete lockdown happens help from the government will be critical.

“We’re in an unfortunate period right now where the province actually ended it’s SME relaunch grant on March 31st and they still have yet to open up it’s replacement grant which unfortunately is pretty restrictive on how many small businesses will be able to access it,” she said.

Dr. Gibson agrees government and the community need to support local businesses.

“We don’t want small businesses to suffer,” she said.

“If people manage to hold on for a few months longer until we can get these vaccines in people before the variants win we’ll be in really good shape. But if not, this third wave is going to be another tsunami and it’s going to be really hard on individuals and the health system.”

The group is also worried about the impacts covid will have on people long after the pandemic is over.

“I’m seeing cases of long covid and these are people whose entire lives have been shattered by these chronic symptoms and we don’t know how long it’s going to last,” said Dr. Gibson.

Go 4 Zero Canada has created an open letter to federal and provincial leaders calling for a nation-wide lockdown. 

“Nobody’s doing a lockdown,” Dr. Gibson said. “They’re just imposing kind of half measures and I think that’s what go for zero means is if you do a complete lockdown that’s when you eliminate community spread and that’s really the only way to get out from under this virus.”