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With COVID-19 restrictions disappearing next week, experts express concern over Delta variant

Last Updated Jun 21, 2021 at 7:44 am MDT

EDMONTON – Fireworks will be going off July 1 as Alberta celebrates Canada Day–the only province in Canada with no more restrictions as of that date.

This comes after the province reached the vaccination milestone, allowing the province to fully reopen.

What experts will be watching for as restrictions dissolve is the potential spread of the Delta variant.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, says the easily-transmissible variant has jumped 66 per cent in Canada last week alone, meaning there are over 2,000 cases of the variant as of Friday.

RELATED: Albertans who got vaccinated in May can now book second dose appointments

Tam and other doctors are expressing concern, saying one dose of the vaccine isn’t as effective and being fully immunized. They’re urging Canada to pick up the pace on second doses.

“With the reopening plans, we have to hustle. We need to get moving on second doses as fast as humanly possible. We need to be much more adaptable to getting first doses to people who are remaining who are eligible,” said Dr. Gabriel Fabreau, general internist and clinic volunteer at the Peter Lougheed Hospital.

Alberta’s premier, however, is confident in the efficacy of vaccines and the speed at which shots are being led out, saying the province is open for good, not just for the summer.

RELATED: 70.2% of eligible Albertans vaccinated, province to move to Stage 3 of reopening

“We now have a way out of this, and that is the miracle of modern science of these vaccines,” Jason Kenney said Friday.

“These vaccines, once you get a second dose of the mRNAs, we’re talking 99 per cent protection against severe outcomes.”

“We still have 1.8 million Albertans who have had no shots. Those Albertans who have had only one shot or no shot could potentially spread it amongst themselves,” cautioned Noel Gibney, cochair of the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association Strategic Pandemic Committee.

Even with more than 70 per cent of eligible Albertans vaccinated with at least their first dose, some doctors aren’t convinced it’s safe to open so soon.

“Delta variant is here, the science is emerging but it looks like it is more transmissible and is able to escape every single vaccine to a greater degree than the other variants,” said Fabreau.

“We are in a situation where the Delta variant is certainly concerning,” said Gibney.

RELATED: Alberta prepared for another summer without international tourists

“In my perspective, where we are now in Phase 2 is relatively safe. We still have dining with restrictions, patios, and masking. In an ideal situation, I think that is where we should remain for another month while we watch and see how the Delta situation is unfolding.”

Gibney believes the province made the reopening plan before Delta became relevant in the country and choosing not to alter the reopening plan.

“I think the Delta variant has come in and confused things to a certain extent and instead of doing what the UK government did and take a step back and wait a month, our government is saying, ‘Let’s take a chance on this and chance reopening on July 1,'” he said.

Although Delta cases are still relatively low at the moment, Gibney says their modelling predicts the variant doubling every eight days.