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Variant warnings not enough to change behaviour of younger adults: doctor

Last Updated Apr 5, 2021 at 5:29 pm MDT

A COVID-19 variant is putting younger adults in hospital, but are the warning enough to change behaviour? What the risk is and if warnings will scare people into following the rules. Fauxels/Pexels

CALGARY (CityNews) — Getting ready for what could be the worst wave of COVID-19 yet, hospitals are preparing for a new challenge, with risks many haven’t caught on to yet.

But there are doubts the P.1 variant and other more infectious strains will change behaviour, especially in younger adults, driving up cases.

“It has a number of characteristics that make it quite concerning. It’s more transmissible, it has a higher illness rate for younger people. Women are more infected than the original variant. And it seems to re-infect people who had the original variant,” said Dr. Joe Vipond, an ER doctor and member of the group Masks4Canada.

Vipond and other Alberta physicians received an email over the weekend, to prepare to return to the COVID unit.

READ MORE: COVID-19 variant cases on the rise across the country

Ahead of the Easter Long Weekend, premier Jason Kenney said a surge in variant cases is a wake-up call, but no new restrictions were announced.

“We know that previous infectious diseases like AIDS or whatnot, that the strongest influence on an individual’s choices is often what they see happening to other people whom they may know. In other words, it kinda becomes real when you know someone that’s gotten sick,” said Amy Kaler, a Sociology professor at the University of Alberta.

While the average age for COVID-19 deaths in Alberta is 81, data shows a spike among young people since early March.

READ MORE: Twenty-six COVID-19 cases linked to ‘large Western Canada employer,’ province records 432 new variant cases

A P.1 variant wave in BC hasn’t stopped some party-goers in the middle of a province-wide shutdown, while tight measures introduced in Ontario before the long weekend were made to control alarming ICU admissions.

“Two tables can be two metres apart, and six people and you have to say you’re from the safe household and somebody gives a phone number,” said Kaler. “That is inviting people to come up with inventive ways to get around it. It’s not as clear cut as the door is locked, the place is closed, we can’t get in.”

Dr. Vipond says these pushes for people to have more personal responsibility has never resulted in COVID mitigation.

“The things that make people act is strong rules put in by governments, so if you want people to behave better, you have to set the parameters.”