Hajdu asks Alberta for science behind plan to lift COVID-19 rules


OTTAWA – Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu has sent a letter to her Alberta counterpart saying she shares concerns about the province’s plan to lift all of its COVID-19 health restrictions.

In the letter, addressed to Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Hajdu says she agrees with the Canadian Paediatric Society’s description of the move as an “unnecessary and risky gamble.”

She says recent modelling for Alberta forecasts a more serious resurgence in cases fuelled by the Delta variant, and all governments need to take reasonable steps to protect Canadians.

“The vaccination campaign in Canada, one of the best in the world, has significantly changed the overall context of COVID-19 here … However, it is still too early to declare victory,” writes Hajdu.

“Many remain unvaccinated, creating the potential for outbreaks, and we need to increase first and second dose coverage in order to protect against a Delta-driven resurgence that could seriously impact our citizens and our health system capacity.”

Hajdu says she wants to better understand the rationale and science behind Alberta’s decision.

Last week, the province ended contract tracing and said close contacts of people who test positive for COVID-19 are not required to isolate. And starting Aug. 16, those infected will no longer need to quarantine.

Shandro and Premier Jason Kenney have said Alberta’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, came up with the plan to remove restrictions and that it is backed by science and data. They have not released that data other than pointing to vaccine uptake. About 66 per cent of eligible Albertans have been fully vaccinated.

Brett Boyden, a spokesman for Shandro, said in a statement that Hinshaw has been “very clear on the sound medical reasoning behind her decisions.”

In a recent editorial, Hinshaw apologized for causing some Albertans “confusion, fear or anger” but said eliminating testing, isolation and contact tracing will help support the whole health of Albertans.

Boyden added that Hinshaw also frequently communicates with her federal counterparts.