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Experts concerned over Alberta government’s comments about pandemic moving to ‘endemic’

Last Updated Jul 22, 2021 at 11:24 am MDT

CALGARY — Alberta’s premier says the pandemic is in the past and we’re moving forward, leading Canada out of the crisis. But experts say it isn’t time to let down our guard and call it a day just yet.

A tweet from the premier read in part “Such a joy to connect with Albertans during Canada’s first major event after the pandemic.”

The last part of that sentence stirring things up on social media.

CityNews reached out for clarification on the tweet.

“The Premier, Chief Medical Officer of Health, and Health Minister have all said COVID-19 is moving from a pandemic to an endemic. This is the progression of a virus.”

“I worry that kind of language could fuel complacency and create the perception that it’s completely finished and unfortunately it’s not. Not on a regional level and certainly not on an international level,” said Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in Health, Law and Policy.

In places like Israel, Australia, the U.K. cases still surged after vaccination. Parts of Los Angeles re-imposed mask mandates, Iran is in total lockdown once again.

Global vaccine equity is still a major concern, while Alberta may not be as worried on that front.

“That’s definitely not the case around the world and we are seeing a number of countries where they don’t have access to vaccines and the virus is running more or less unchecked,” said Dr. Craig Jenne, an associate professor of immunology and infectious diseases at the University of Calgary. “The more cases there are the greater the risk of variants.”


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Jenne is hesitant to say we are moving into an endemic — he says we aren’t at a place where we can predict the number of cases of COVID year over year, like the flu.

“A pandemic is still a new disease that is occurring at an infection rate that we’d not seen before, and an endemic is something we’re more familiar with, something that is present within the human population at about the same rate year after year,” said Jenne.

So what would need to happen in order for COVID-19 to be called an endemic?

“What we need to see is the flattening of these waves – we don’t want to see these continual spikes and surges,” said Caulfield.

Caulfield says using the pandemic as a political win is tempting – but dangerous when done too soon when many are still either unable or choosing not to be vaccinated.

“I think its really important for the government, for all political leaders to emphasize the need to continue to be vigilant, to emphasize the need to get vaccinated,” said Caulfield.