Kenney following Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea leads in reopening Alberta economy

Published April 16, 2020 12:49 p.m. ET
Updated April 17, 2020 10:49 a.m. ET

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney updates media on measures taken to help with COVID-19, in Edmonton on Friday, March 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

EDMONTON -- Alberta’s premier says the province will follow the steps of other countries who’ve kept their economies functioning while keeping a second wave of COVID-19 cases at bay. 

Jason Kenney pointed to Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea as examples of jurisdictions from which he’d be taking inspiration. 

His plan consists of five main components: a strengthened effort to track the contacts of those who have tested positive; stronger border screening; public health order enforcement using technology like smartphone apps; and asking Albertans to wear masks in “crowded public spaces” like transit. 

At the centre of the plan will be a robust testing system which processes more than four times the amount of tests Alberta currently can in a 24-hour period. 

“Our plan is to turn around as many as 20,000 tests a day,” Kenney said. 

Experts have said Canada has something to learn from China, which, when the outbreak began, saw a peak of more than 14,000 new cases of COVID-19 in one day. Now, China has reported fewer than 100 new cases and 30 deaths a day since early March.

South Korea's daily reported cases dropped into the double-digits in April, after the country reported more than 800 new cases at its peak on March 29. Although the country did not impose a nationwide lockdown, it did close schools and has not yet reopened them.

Spain, Germany and New Zealand are also showing promising signs that their curves are flattening.

Taiwan has only counted 395 confirmed COVID-19 cases and six deaths overall, according to data from John Hopkins University.

The premier said Alberta could similarly flatten its curve if residents respect the public health orders. 

“To be honest, I hope the models are wrong. I hope the tough measures taken to date will allow us to begin gradually returning to normal sooner than that,” Kenney said.

“But that all depends — it all depends — on how Albertans act in the weeks to come.”

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Canada’s prime minister said Thursday it would be “absolutely disastrous” for provinces to reopen too quickly. 

“Of course, conversations are ongoing now, but we’re still many weeks away from talking about actually doing anything to reopen our economy, even with the variations across the country,” Justin Trudeau commented during the morning address from Rideau Cottage. 

While Kenney did not give a hard date Alberta’s economy will begin to reopen, he said the process would start after the province’s peak in daily new cases.

According to projections by provincial officials, that is expected to happen in mid to late-May. The premier said public health orders will likely remain in place until the end of that month. 

Premier Scott Moe is also preparing a plan to “reopen Saskatchewan” that could be released as early as next week. Alberta’s eastern neighbour recently extended its provincial state of emergency by two weeks, with just over 300 confirmed COVID-19 cases, but Moe said his government can start working on a plan given the slow in case numbers. 

The Saskatchewan government has said if its pandemic numbers remain low, and if it receives a go-ahead from health authorities, a reopening could be just a few weeks away.

With files from

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