COVID-19: variant cases on the rise, new provincial restrictions

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Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Premier Jason Kenney provided a COVID-19 update on Tuesday, April 6.

Local cases have risen slightly, with Fort Saskatchewan reporting 37 cases active cases. Nearby Sherwood Park reported 85 cases, Strathcona County reported 31 cases, and Sturgeon County reported 39 cases.

Alberta is effectively reverting back to Step 1 of its reopening plan in an order to curb the growing spread of COVID-19, Premier Jason Kenney announced Tuesday. The new restrictions take effect at midnight Tuesday, Kenney said.

Adult fitness and one-on-one training with a trainer or instructor are still permitted while drop-in or unsupervised individual fitness and group fitness activities will not be allowed. Sporting performance lessons, practices, and conditioning may continue with restrictions.

Performance activities which include dancing, singing, acting, and playing a musical instrument will not be permitted during this period, and libraries will be closed until further notice.

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Starting at noon on Friday, indoor dining at restaurants, bars, pubs, lounges, and cafes will not be allowed. Takeout, curbside pickup, and delivery services may continue and outdoor patios will be allowed to stay open for bars and restaurants.“The only responsible choice to save lives and to protect our health-care system is to take action,” Kenney said.Health Minister Tyler Shandro said recognizing the warmer weather and lower risk of infection outdoors, the province decided to keep patios open.However, there will continue to be a maximum of six people per table and they must be in your immediate household.The new restrictions come after Kenney and Hinshaw pleaded with Albertans on Thursday to follow the restrictions.

Kenney said Tuesday he believes the current measures would have been enough if people would have complied with them, but there was growing evidence of non-compliance from “COVID fatigue.”

“Unfortunately, we are continuing to see accelerated growth driven by the variants and concluded that these additional measures were necessary,” Kenney said.

Kenney also announced a ramp-up of the province’s vaccine rollout. Effective Wednesday, all Albertans eligible under Phase 2B will be able to sign up for vaccinations.

The province will also be setting up a series of rapid flu clinics across the province later this week to help with the volume of vaccinations while participating pharmacies will be able to allow for walk-in appointments for vaccinations.

Fort Saskatchewan MLA Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk released a statement to her constituents on the decision to revert to Phase One,

“We know this is not a favourable action, so I sincerely appreciate your understanding and patience as we all react to the ever changing covid variables. AHS has assured us that with more vaccinations, these restrictions will be reduced. I want you to know that I do take all recommendations and suggestions to our government. You are being heard, and as a member of the community, a wife, and a parent, I too understand how difficult this past year has been.”

“I humbly ask that you continue to be patient and diligent to ensure the health and safety of our communities.”

As of end-of-day Monday, 734,403 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, or 16,608.4 per 100,000 people. There are 123,272 Albertans fully immunized with two doses.

Alberta reported 931 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, after 9,126 tests were completed for a positivity rate of about 10.2 per cent. Another 676 more cases of variants of concern were also identified.

Across the province, there are 10,809 active cases, which is an increase of 27 per cent in the last week Kenney said. Of the active cases, 4,604 or 42.6 per cent are variants.

There are 328 people in hospital and of those, 76 are in intensive care units.

Three more deaths from COVID-19 were reported, raising the death toll to 2,001.

Canada’s hospitalizations are surging and its intensive care beds are filling up, as COVID-19 variants and a third wave of the pandemic sweeps across much of the country, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday.

“Around the world, countries are facing a very serious third wave of this pandemic,” Trudeau told a news conference. “And right now, so is Canada.”

Canada has averaged nearly 5,200 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week, and has recorded a total of more than a million positive tests and 23,000 deaths.

-with files from Anna Junker

jhamilton@postmedia.com

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