Alberta announces new restrictions to ‘stop the spike’ and expands eligibility for vaccinations

by Jake Cardinal

(May 6, 2021) – The third-wave of COVID-19 is sweeping through Alberta.

On Wednesday the province clocked 2,271 new cases, breaking the record for total number of active cases at 24,156. There are 666 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 146 in intensive care.

The province has the highest active per-capita rate in Canada, with 534 per 100,000 people. The variants are also accounting for 59.4 per cent of cases.

In order to slow the rapid transmission of the virus and to protect the stability of the health care system, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced new restrictions Tuesday.

Under the new restrictions, restaurants must go back to take-out service only, personal care businesses such as hair salons are closed, and all students must shift back to online learning.

Outdoor gatherings are limited to five people and the province strongly recommends limiting these gatherings to two family cohorts.

Places of worship will be limited to 15 people and funerals will be limited to 10.

Fines for not following the restrictions are also being doubled from $1,000 to $2,000.

“We are introducing a tougher enforcement protocol for repeat offenders. We will not tolerate those who endanger the health of their fellow Albertans while the vast majority of people are doing the right thing,” the premier said.

“Let me be clear, we will not permit our health-care system to be overwhelmed. We must not, and will not, force our doctors and nurses to decide who gets care and who doesn’t,” Kenney said during a live speech Tuesday evening.

“That is why we must act now to stop the spike.”

While the Healthcare system can handle the current level of infection, the current 1.8 per cent growth rate means the province would have 30,000 active cases by mid-May and 40,000 cases by the end of the month.

“When you take that number and apply the ratio of cases to hospitalizations, you end up moving into the red zone in terms of ICU capacity. Well over 300 ICU patients with COVID in early June.”

“Our stretch capacity is 425 COVID ICU beds. But let’s be clear, we can only open up those beds, those staffed beds, by massively cancelling surgeries and other health-care procedures, the cost of which would be very high and frankly, would also likely cost lives,” he said.

Then in brighter news, the Alberta Government announced that anyone aged 30 or older can book an appointment to get vaccinated starting Thursday May 6.

Albertans born between 1992 and 2009 will then be eligible to book appointments on Monday May 10.

“Our priority has always been protecting those at highest risk first,” said Kenney.

“Now that those at the highest risk of experiencing severe outcomes from the virus have had the opportunity to receive their first dose, we can offer the vaccine to all Albertans.”

Appointments can be booked through the Alberta Health Services website, 811 phone line or participating pharmacies.

3.8 million Albertans will be eligible for immunization with the expansion.

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