Kenney looks toward lifting COVID-19 restrictions once hospital numbers start dropping

Alberta reports 1,469 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 106 in ICU.

14 more deaths reported in province, Dr. Deena Hinshaw says in update

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, held a news conference Thursday about efforts to contain COVID-19. (CBC)

Alberta will begin lifting health restrictions once hospitalization rates drop, Premier Jason Kenney said Thursday.

"That day you're talking about is coming," Kenney told a news conference, responding to a question about when Albertans may see the easing of public health restrictions.

"I'm pretty confident it will come before the end of March. And I hope it comes — I'll just tell you this — we will eliminate the restrictions exemption program as soon as it is safe to do so."

Kenney said that right now, Alberta is continuing to see hospitalizations increase due to COVID-19.

"We're at, in fact, the highest point in the two years in terms of people in hospital with COVID.

"But I very much hope that we can move towards widespread relaxation of public health measures — including the proof of vaccination program — in the foreseeable future, once we start to see the pressure on hospitals trend down."

Kenney said the decision would be based on data, and what the province can learn from other jurisdictions where the Omicron wave is ahead of Alberta's.

When the proof of vaccination option was introduced in September, Kenney had said he didn't foresee the program going beyond the first three months of 2022.

"I am hopeful, based on the trends we are beginning to see here and we've seen elsewhere, that we'll be able to consider lifting that and most other public health measures well before that," he said.

Alberta's vaccine passport will remain for now, Kenney says

1 year ago
Duration 2:39
Premier Jason Kenney says it is too soon to consider removing the province's vaccine passport system with Omicron cases still putting the health-care system under stress.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta chief medical officer of health, reported 14 new deaths from COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total to 3,518 since the start of the pandemic.

There were 1,469 people with COVID-19 in hospital Thursday, up from 1,418 on Wednesday,  Hinshaw said.

Of the people in hospital, 106 patients were being treated in intensive care units. 

Alberta Health Services has started moving patients into the Kaye Edmonton Clinic pandemic response unit.

The first five patients were expected to arrive on the unit Thursday afternoon.

Over the next few days additional patients will be admitted to the unit, which currently has staffing to support 18 beds.

Provincially, ICU capacity, including additional surge beds, is at 80 per cent. Without the use of additional surge spaces, provincial ICU capacity would be at 112 per cent.

The positivity rate Thursday was 34.7 per cent, slightly lower than the seven-day average of 36.85 per cent.

Alberta Health confirmed Wednesday that three cases of the Omicron subvariant BA.2 have been detected in the province through ongoing genetic surveillance, which includes genome sequencing.