On Tuesday, Premier Kenney announced that Alberta's Government is developing a framework that will see the gradual removal of COVID-19 restrictions by the end of February. One of the first things on the list will be the Restriction Exemption Program.
The REP was brought in last year as a proof of vaccination measure to limit the spread of COVID-19 and ease the burden on our hospitals. However, we have since learned that two doses of vaccine does not slow down viral transmission nearly as much as originally believed, particularly with the highly contagious Omicron variant.
In other words, the REP has not been particularly effective at limiting the spread of Omicron.
Given that, and the division the REP has caused in our community, I oppose the continued use of the REP. I have expressed my opinion in caucus and to the Premier.
Implementing the program back in September was not an easy decision, but necessary due to low vaccination rates and to rising hospitalizations and ICU admissions attributed to the Delta variant.
Today, five months later, the realities have changed. Today we see approximately 90% of Albertans 12+ with a first dose and we have seen ICU admissions fall and remain relatively stable through this fifth wave. Reflecting on the current state of vaccinations and hospitalizations, it is clear to me that the program has served its purpose and I am in full agreement with Premier Kenney, that it's time to begin eliminating restrictions, starting first with REP.
I do not want to see measures in place a minute longer than they are necessary.
I know some Albertans will be apprehensive with this news and other may believe all measures should be removed tomorrow and not in a months time. I hear and understand both of those viewpoints. As always, I have tried to take an informed and evidence-based approach to informing my views and currently there is little rationale to continue the REP and other measures as cases are decreasing and hospitalizations have plateaued. In other countries around the world who were hit with Omircron before Alberta, including South Africa, the UK, Ireland and others have taken similar steps in removing COVID-19 restrictions with general success, which again gives credible and objective evidence that we can begin to take a similar approach.
If you have further questions, please send me an email at [email protected] and I will be happy to give you more information.