By Kenyon Stronski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
As of Dec. 24, all Albertans 18 and older can now book their booster shot as long as at least five months have passed since their second dose.
New measures also took effect that day that focused on avoiding super-spreader events — like when COVID first arrived — by decreasing contact in large capacity venues and limiting unrestricted activities where there is a high risk of transmission. Currently, Albertans are being asked to reduce their social contacts by 50 per cent during the holiday season.
“While these new measures will hopefully lower the risk at large events, our small everyday actions can have a big impact. This is why I appeal to all Albertans to reduce their number of contacts by half over the coming weeks, follow the guidelines already in place, and get the vaccine booster as soon as they are eligible. It’s the single most important thing anybody can do right now to protect themselves from Omicron,” stated Premier Jason Kenney when he took the stand last week on Dec. 21.
The new public health measures are as follows and will have taken effect at 12:01 a.m. Dec. 24.
For venues in the Restrictions Exemption Program (REP), 50 per cent capacity limits at venues that seat more than 1,000 people. For venues with a capacity between 500 and 1,000, occupants are limited to 500. Currently, there is no impact on venues under 500. No food or drink consumption in seated audience settings or during intermissions in the above-mentioned venues.
Maximum table capacity of 10 people in restaurants, pubs and bars. No mingling between tables. No interactive activities at restaurants, pubs and bars; this includes things like dancing, darts or pool.
Restaurants, pubs and bars must stop liquor service at 11 p.m. and close at 12:30 a.m. Restrictions continue for both indoor and outdoor social gatherings, weddings, funerals, places of worship and businesses. Albertans should also refrain from workplace social gatherings.
Masking still remains mandatory in all indoor public spaces, including in facilities participating in the REP. Albertans with risk factors for severe outcomes should wear medical masks in settings with those outside their household.
“These new measures, along with more boosters and rapid test availability will help slow the spread of COVID-19. These efforts are critical as work continues to prepare our healthcare system for potential challenges from the Omicron variant. I know Albertans are tired of the pandemic, but we need to take what we have learned from previous waves and urgently apply it to our current situation,” said Minister of Health Jason Copping.
In addition to boosters and restrictions, Alberta’s government will also be directly purchasing up to 10 million rapid test kits for delivery in Jan.
More than 2.5 million rapid tests have already been made available to Albertans in the rollout mid-December. You can visit alberta.ca/CovidRapidTests to find the location nearest to you with available stock if you wish.
“Now more than ever, it is important for Albertans to follow public health measures and consider how their actions may affect others. While we are still learning about Omicron, we do know that is it high transmissible. Cases have doubled in a matter of days. Reducing contacts will not only slow the spread of Omicron, but it can help us gain valuable time to prepare for what is to come,” said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.