COVID-19 restrictions necessary for pandemic and economic recovery: Former AHS CEO
EDMONTON -- A former Alberta Health Services CEO says listening to public health advice is the key to successfully fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and to supporting economic recovery.
Dr. Stephen Duckett was one of the architects of Australia's pandemic response plan. Parts of the country went into a strict lockdown to stop the second wave and restrictions were aggressively enforced in order to get down to zero COVID-19 cases.
"There was no conflict between what was good for the economy and what was good for the health system, they’re the same thing," Duckett told CTV News Edmonton from his home in Melbourne. "They went for zero, and we achieved it."
Australia has recorded 27,987 cases of COVID-19 since January 2020, with only 83 of those coming since the start of December.
As of Dec. 7, Alberta has reported more than 70,000 cases, with more than 12,000 of those coming since start of the month.
Australia has a population of over 25 million compared to Alberta's 4.4 million.
Duckett was fired by AHS in 2010 after he refused to answer questions from the media because he was eating a cookie. He is now the health program director at Grattan Institute, a public policy think tank in Australia.
He co-authored a report called Go For Zero, which concluded that getting cases down would save lives and was essential for the health of the economy.
The theory proved to be true; Australia's economy grew by 3.3% in the third quarter, rebounding from its first recession in nearly three decades.
"The economy has actually bounced back quite quickly, because people are no longer uncertain," he explained. "They no longer have to have no idea what’s going to happen to them in the next six months. And of course, that’s good for business."
Duckett said the public health advice is clear and Alberta will need to take stronger action if they want restrictions to have an impact.
"If you want to get to zero deaths a day, then you have to do certain things. If you’re quite happy for 50 Albertans to die a day, say it," Duckett said. "If you want to get to zero deaths a day, you’re going to have to do restrictions."
Premier Jason Kenney announced restrictions banning indoor gatherings and reducing capacity at businesses nearly two weeks ago, on Nov. 24.
On Monday, Chief Medical Office of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the measures have not been enough to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Alberta's active case count is now over 20,000 – the highest total and per capita amount in Canada.