Alberta premier hopes to start lifting all COVID-19 health measures by end of February
Province must see sustained decline in hospitalizations before easing restrictions, Kenney says
Alberta will begin lifting most, if not all, health restrictions by the end of the month if current COVID-19 trends continue, Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday.
"Once we begin to see a sustained reduction in COVID pressure on the hospitals, I am looking forward to being able to make decisions about moving toward relaxation of public health measures at that time," Kenney said at a news conference.
"I believe that will happen this month, in February."
Kenney said there needs to be a sustained decline in hospitalization pressures before health restrictions are eased.
"While these overall trends are encouraging, and while we clearly did reach the peak of Omicron infections approximately two weeks ago … we are not out of the woods yet, and I implore Albertans to continue to be mindful of this," he said.
"But with the overall trends I am very optimistic we will be able to move forward with meaningful relaxation of public health measures this month, including the elimination of the restrictions exemption, or proof of vaccination, program," Kenney said.
"Vaccination status is being less helpful in preventing transmission and infection than was the case when we brought in the REP in early September."
Watch | Alberta premier wants to lift restrictions this month
Loosening health measures will be eased in over three phases, Kenney said. The REP, with its QR code to verify vaccination status, will be among the first to go, he said.
"I believe we'll be able to provide a framework for widespread relaxation of public health measures and rules as early as next week and that the restrictions exemption program will be at the top of that list."
3.1M rapid tests arrive
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, announced the province has received 3.1 million rapid tests.
They are being shipped to pharmacies in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer, along with First Nations communities and Alberta Health Services locations, Hinshaw said.
The number of overall hospitalizations related to COVID-19 continues to reach new highs in Alberta.
As of Tuesday's update, there were 1,585 COVID-19 patients, up from 1,516 on Monday.
There are now 109 patients in intensive care, which is up 10 from Monday.
"Our hospitalizations for COVID-19 may be beginning to plateau although it is important to note they are still currently higher than at any other time during the pandemic," Hinshaw said.
"While our leading indicators of wastewater surveillance and positivity are signalling that we are on the other side of the fifth wave, and it is encouraging to see that hospitalizations may be at a plateau, at the same time it is critical to remember that half of all of our cases come in the second part of the wave, and transmission is still very high."
There were 13 new deaths reported in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of COVID-19 deaths in the province to 3,579.
The positivity rate of tests over the past 24 hours was reported at 40 per cent.