By Jake Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – The omicron virus, described as the latest “variant of concern,” was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on November 24, 2021.
Five days later, on Nov. 29, it was reported to have entered Ottawa after two people returned from a trip to Nigeria.
Since then, Canada has seen a 45 percent increase in daily COVID-19 cases, with 350 cases being reported in 11 provinces and territories.
The Alberta Government reported 473 new COVID cases on Thursday, which brought the number of active cases in the province to 4,212. Of these, 119 cases have been confirmed to be the Omicron variant.
However, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced on Wednesday that the province would be loosening its indoor gathering restrictions for the holiday season.
The maximum number of people allowed for an indoor gathering remains at 10, however the two household limit is no longer being enforced — and anyone aged 17 and under will not count towards the limit.
Unvaccinated people are also now allowed to attend and host indoor social gatherings.
“Until today Alberta was the only province to prohibit indoor socializing of unvaccinated individuals, which we have concluded is leading to widespread non-compliance,” said Kenney.
“And now with 90 percent of adults having some level of protection, we believe it is no longer necessary.”
89.3 percent of Albertans have been partially vaccinated (one dose) and 84.3 percent have been fully vaccinated (two doses).
The Alberta Government has also made rapid test kits available for free at more than 700 Alberta Health Services sites and pharmacies across the province. Albertans are able to receive one kit every two weeks, as well as pick up a kit for someone else considering they have their healthcare number.
Each kit contains five tests and the province has said there are more than 500,000 in stock. However, the kits are meant for those without COVID symptoms.
“People who have symptoms should immediately isolate and do a PCR test at an AHS assessment centre.”
Booster shots have also been made available for those aged 50 and up, so long as six months have passed since the last shot.
In B.C., new restrictions have been put in place after the province saw a sharp uptick in COVID cases.
On Thursday, B.C. reported 753 new cases of COVID, which brought the active case amount to 3,878 — 135 being the Omicron variant.
The province announced that starting Monday, the indoor gathering limit will be restricted to one household plus 10 other individuals or one additional household if everyone is vaccinated.
Proof of vaccination will also be required for all organized events, regardless of event size, and event operators will need to scan the QR code rather than doing a visual check.
Furthermore, the province has cancelled all sporting events till the end of January and restricted people from moving around in restaurants.
All New Year’s Eve events are also cancelled.
“We have been watching very closely what has been happening across this country and here in B.C. It is becoming very apparent that the trajectory of Omicron taking over Delta is happening here,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.