Faced with an increase in cases and the lowest vaccination rate in the country, Alberta will begin paying $ 100 to people who receive a first or second dose of COVID-19 vaccine, Premier Jason Kenney announced Friday.
The move is part of a series of new measures announced by the province, including making masks mandatory for all indoor public spaces and workplaces from Saturday.
Alberta is the first province in Canada to offer a financial incentive for vaccinations, although the tactic has been used in the United States, Kenney said at a press conference in Edmonton.
“I wish we didn’t have to do this, but now is not the time to make moral judgments,” he said of the incentive program, which is expected to cost around $ 20 million. .
The number of eligible Albertans who have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine is about five percentage points lower than the Canadian average, he said.
“If the choice is between a prolonged crisis in our hospitals or, God forbid, widespread restrictions, which I want to avoid at all costs, or find a way to get the attention of these vaccine laggards, we will choose this last .”
The $ 100 pre-loaded debit card incentive is open to Albertans aged 18 and over who are vaccinated by October 14. You will need to register after the vaccination on a website that went live on September 13.
Among the public health measures announced on Friday include:
- From Saturday, restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs and nightclubs will be required to end alcohol service at 10 p.m.
- It is strongly recommended that unvaccinated Albertans limit social gatherings indoors to close contacts of only two cohort families, up to a maximum of 10 people.
- Alberta Health is developing a QR code that will allow Albertans to quickly prove their immunization status.
- Employers are urged to suspend return-to-work plans and instead continue with work-from-home measures. If employees are working on-site, employees should mask themselves for all indoor environments except in workstations or where a two-meter physical distance or adequate physical barriers are in place.
- School boards will continue to establish their own masking rules for schools.
The press conference also offered thought-provoking updates on the current strain on Alberta’s healthcare system and modeling that gives insight into how serious things are.
Alberta Health Services is delaying scheduled surgeries and procedures by 30 to 60 percent, depending on the area. It is also opening specific beds in Calgary and Edmonton for COVID-19 patients in an effort to free up space in hospitals.
“The situation is serious,” AHS said in a press release.
Meanwhile, modeling done in mid-August suggests a worst-case scenario in the coming weeks of 700 people in regular hospital beds and up to 290 others in need of intensive care, the government said in a statement from. hurry.
Filling unvaccinated hospital beds
Kenney said the delta variant increased hospitalization rates, almost entirely in unvaccinated people.
As of Thursday, 70 percent of eligible Albertans aged 12 and older are now fully immunized, Kenney said.
“But the bad news is that we still have 30% of the eligible population without full vaccine protection, that is, without two doses. And the delta variant is making its way through that group at an aggressive rate.”
Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the new measures will also help slow the spread of the virus and its impact on the healthcare system.
“We must restore these measures to ensure our security,” Shandro said. “We are confident that these things, along with our vaccines, will be enough to help us with relatively small impacts on our lives, on our economy, compared to what we have seen previously throughout the pandemic. “
The masking requirement “is a step we can take with minimal disruption to business and the normal activities of people,” he said.
Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the new protocols are part of Alberta’s evolving strategy to fight COVID-19.
Hospitalization and intensive care numbers tend to rise with no guarantee as to when the province will peak, Hinshaw said.
“We know behaviors and contact patterns will likely change in September with the start of fall activities,” she said. “It is therefore likely that the maximum number of hospitalizations and intensive care will exceed these current forecasts if we do not implement public health measures now.”
Kenney said cases of the delta variant were on the decline in July when the province lifted restrictions as part of its “open for summer” plan. More recently, the variant has spread widely “and caused serious consequences at much higher rates in unvaccinated adults,” he said.
“This is true even in young adults, for example. As of July 1, unvaccinated people aged 20 to 59 have a risk of hospitalization 50 to 60 times higher than those who have been vaccinated.”
Unvaccinated people account for more than 80% of all hospital admissions since July 1, he said.
Alberta leads the country in daily new COVID-19 cases and active cases during the fourth wave of the pandemic. The absence of government and health officials during the recent spate of cases has been widely criticized.
Alberta reported 1,339 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, with 12,868 active cases across the province – an increase of 578 from the previous data update.
There were 487 people treated at the hospital, including 114 in intensive care beds.