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Province brings in new targeted measures in response to Omicron threat

Changes to restrictions exemption program to take effect Dec. 24.

In light of the Omicron variant, the province is bringing in new targeted measures and asking Albertans to limit their personal contact with others.

In a Dec. 21 press conference Health Minister Jason Copping announced changes to the restrictions exemption program (REP).

Starting Dec. 24, venues above the 1,000-person capacity will be capped at 50 per cent. Venues with capacity of between 500 and 1,000 will be capped at 500.

Food and beverages are no longer permitted in seated audience situations.

Restaurants and bars participating in the REP are limited to 10 people per table and no recreational activities will be permitted. Liquor service must stop at 11 p.m.

Data from the province, current as of Dec. 20, has shown an increase in active COVID cases, and the positivity rate has climbed from three per cent to 11 per cent. The province is reporting 6,045 active COVID cases.

There are 329 people hospitalized with the virus, 69 of whom are in ICU.

The total number of people who have died from the virus in the province, to date, is 3,294.

The province also opened COVID-19 booster shots to all Albertans aged 18 and over on Tuesday.

The shot is now available to those who received their second dose of a COVID vaccine five months prior. The province is encouraging people to take the first mRNA shot that is available to them for the third dose, however, Albertans ages 18 to 29 will be offered Pfizer as a cautionary measure.

COVID-19 boosters will increase protection and prevent community spread, said the press statement.

Last week Premier Jason Kenney announced two changes to the current indoor social gathering restrictions.

Gathering restrictions remain at 10 people, ages 18 and over, but the two-household cohort limit and vaccination requirement have been removed.

Last Wednesday’s update from Alberta's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, was dire as she warned Albertans how serious the Omicron variant could become in the province.

With the much larger number of people infected, the overall impact in ICUs is still rising in other parts of the world where Omicron is spreading fast.

Indoor social gatherings are the leading cause of spread in the province, said Hinshaw.

Apart from following the new restrictions, there are additional ways people can make holiday gatherings safe, including wearing masks when not eating or drinking, spreading seating apart between households, and increasing air circulation.

Hinshaw also emphasized it is critical for those who are unwell to neither host nor attend a gathering.

Rapid tests can also be used before attending or hosting a gathering.

On Dec. 17, free rapid antigen tests kits became available to Albertans from select pharmacies and Alberta Health Services locations across the province.

Kits are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

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