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COVID updates and the omicron variant raise many questions but give no answers

By Zarif Alibhai, February 17 2022—

COVID is not just the mild flu or a hoax. We are now entering the third year of this COVID-19 pandemic. That makes me apprehensive because we were informed by the federal government that we would be out of this pandemic and our freedoms restored and restrictions lifted.

Leaked information from Alberta Health Services shows that we are seeing increased hospitalization of over 1,500 cases and that we may not have peaked from this fifth wave of the Omicron variant. I think people just want COVID-19 to finish. However, what is the true way out of the pandemic? Is it a vaccination tax like that being suggested by Quebec leader, Frances Legault? Or by giving libertarian freedoms like Jason Kenny? I’m not sure but one thing I know is according to Deena Hinshaw, we are “not out of the woods, yet.”

On the other hand, why is the provincial government not releasing projected modelling and limiting PCR testing to only certain high-risk factors and vulnerable settings? Is it politically motivated? Or the fact that Kenny is up for UCP leadership review by his own party this spring? Does he not see his mistakes during the open for summer plan during the fourth wave and how many lives Alberta lost due to the delta wave? Is it negligent or is it a mistake? Only time will tell when this pandemic and its variant friends cease to exist. 

Could the deaths and hospitalizations have been avoided by our elected officials? I’m not sure, but one thing I know is we are all getting weary and tired of this pandemic. Former President Donald Trump may have contributed to minimizing COVID to the likes of a flu but he said the media only talks about COVID, COVID, COVID. 

It seems like that’s all we hear and see these days. I look forward to Hinshaw’s COVID-19 briefings, not because I enjoy it but because the restrictions are changing ever so rapidly. One thing for certain is, the federal government has spent over a trillion dollars of deficit during this pandemic — that’s a lot of zeros that Canada will owe for future generations. The real question is was it necessary for the government to spend so much money to keep Canadians going into debt? Will taxes be increased due to “modest deficits spending” which is what Trudeau announced during his 2015 victory in his majority government? 

Can we build back better or is COVID a smokescreen for politicians to jam through their policies and legislation? And when will our freedoms and social mobility be reinstated now that boosters are being administered? Moderna is claiming that we will need ongoing booster shots in the near future, too. 

According to the CDC and Dr. Anthony Fauci, isolation requirements are getting more confusing because now someone can self-isolate and quarantine for five days and then go out with a mask to essential stores.

After six months, the vaccine immunity begins to wane and now Hinshaw is speaking of administering fourth doses which may be eroding public trust towards science. COVID fatigue is setting in, that’s for sure. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has broken his own rules by attending a boozy party, just after announcing restrictions towards the UK. Can we really trust our elected officials to get it right? Schools have reopened but Alberta blames the federal government for lack of rapid antigen tests, which are only 40 per cent effective. 

Kids are suffering through this pandemic due to mental health issues and the constant on-and-off closure of schools. Should modelling dictate our lives, maybe not. But our healthcare workers have been on the front lines for over two years and hospital capacity is being taken up according to health officials, mainly by the unvaccinated, flooding ICUs and hospital beds

It’s an interesting time and there is no blueprint or playbook on what to do. However, our hospitalizations and positivity rate have reached an all-time high. We will most likely be living with this virus for the rest of our lives, and we can’t afford to overwhelm and collapse the health care system. Therefore we need to keep up with restrictions, despite how weary we may be. We need to limit social mobility in order for us to win the war. 

However, Kenny recently announced an ending to the Restrictions Exemption Program (REP), citing their ineffectiveness to limit the viral spread of COVID-19. Is he doing this because he has a leadership review within his own UCP party in spring? Or, is he cowering to the ongoing protests across the country? Only time will tell, as the rate of hospitalizations increased to 1,600 earlier this month. However, ICUs are steady as Omicron is not as severe as Delta was during viral spread. 

If hospitalizations continue to trend downward, Kenny will repeal the provincial mask law and announced that we need to learn to live with the virus. He states that we will see COVID spread throughout our entire lifetime. He wants to manage the virus, but I believe he’s using this as a political football due to his leadership review. 

The business community states repealing the REP program is like “ripping off a band-aid.” One thing is for sure, we should be following the science, and it’s unclear if Hinshaw’s recommendations are to keep the REP or discard it altogether, as cabinet confidence must be maintained during her recommendations. Although we are wary of restrictions, we most probably will see an uptick due to a new variant circulating around the world, or because of lifting restrictions too prematurely. I believe we should gradually lift restrictions, and wait for the numbers to come down, especially due to higher hospitalizations.

This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.

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