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Updated: Calgary to end state of local emergency, Omicron now in Alberta

The City of Calgary will let the state of local emergency, put in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic, expire on Thursday, Dec. 2.

In a statement released on Tuesday morning, the City said that it no longer needed the powers under the state of local emergency.

“While our Municipal Emergency Plan remains activated to provide citizens and City employees with information, resources and supports they need in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, the powers afforded under the State of Local Emergency are no longer deemed necessary,” read the statement.

The City re-activated the SOLE on Sept. 3 during a period of fast-growing case counts and hospitalizations due to Covid-19.

It allowed the City of Calgary to write local orders in response to Calgary-specific Covid-19 issues, and to procure supplies for essential services.

On Sept. 1, the 7 day rolling average of new Covid-19 cases for the Calgary Health Zone was 301, with 145 people in hospital in the Calgary zone. By the middle of September it would reach 462, and 256 respectively.

As of yesterday, the Calgary Health Zone had an average of 129 cases per day, and 106 people in hospital.

“While it’s encouraging to see the case counts and severe outcomes are trending downward again, we remain in a pandemic and cannot drop our guard against this virus,” said Chief Susan Henry of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency.

The City’s vaccine passport and face covering bylaws will remain in effect.

“With the increase of vaccinations and the continued use of masks in public settings, we have been able to keep businesses and our economy open,” said Mayor Jyoti Gondek.

Province looking at easing gathering restrictions for Holiday season

Premier Jason Kenney said during an update on the provincial Covid-19 situation, that the province will be looking at modest relaxations on gatherings.

"If we don't see alarming evidence about severe outcomes from Omicron we will consider some kind of potential modest relaxation of gatherings," he said.

"Right now we've been asking people since the fourth of September, not to gather indoors with, and we thank folks who have carefully followed those rules.

Kenney said that the province wants to balance the rules going forward with ones that the majority of Albertans will follow, but that this is dependent on ICU patient counts decreasing.

"We haven't made any decisions, but as long as ICU pressure continues to abate, we may be in a position to consider something as we move closer to the holidays," he said.

Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said Tuesday, that it would not be the right time to lift all of the indoor social gathering restrictions.

"Whether or not there's an easing, I don't think this is the time to turn them all off," she said.

Last week the province added paid entry markets and trade shows to the list of locations eligible under the province's Restriction Exemption Program.

Currently, social indoor gatherings are limited to two households, with a maximum of 10 people over 12 years-of-age who have all been vaccinated. Indoor social gatherings are not permitted for unvaccinated persons who are eligible to receive a Covid-19 vaccine.

Omicron variant in Alberta

Speaking to the media last Friday, Gondek said that the City of Calgary was prepared to address any emergencies arising from the new Covid-19 Omicron variant of concern.

"The City of Calgary has been incredibly diligent in terms of preparing itself for any other crises that come out of this pandemic," she said.

Two cases of Omicron have been identified in Ontario. There are now 17 countries worldwide that have identified Omicron cases within their populations, up from 13 yesterday afternoon.

Dr. Hinshaw announced Tuesday, that Alberta has identified its first case of the Omicron variant.

The patient, currently in quarantine, was a returning traveller from Nigeria who transited through the Netherlands.

"The individual tested positive while asymptomatic, and I can confirm that this individual has not left quarantine since their arrival from international travel we have notified the individual and their household and all necessary measures are in place to prevent transmission," said Hinshaw.

The province will not be releasing details about the health zone the traveller is located in. Hinshaw said that this person returned to Canada approximately a week ago.

"We're not releasing a location because this individual has been under strict quarantine, and so therefore the location where they live is something that could potentially be identifiable, and there's no increased local risk in that area."

She said on Monday, that while there are still unanswered questions about the viral variant, the Province has tools at its disposal to address spread.

"We know a lot more about Covid now than we did before—this knowledge means we are not going back to step zero."

The Province is implementing new procedures for the Omicron variant, including greater levels of contact tracing and quarantine restrictions for those identified to have contracted the virus.

These include doing full genetic sequencing on any cases that screen negative for the prevailing Delta variant.

PCR testing and rapid Covid-19 testing will also be implemented for close contacts of anyone who contracts Omicron.

Federal government adds countries to travel restriction list

The Government of Canada has added an additional three countries to their restricted travel list.

Egypt, Malawi, and Nigeria join South Africa, Eswatini, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Namibia on that list.

Canada's Minister of Health, Jean-Yves Duclos, said that testing and disease surveillance capacity for Covid-19 in those nations was the reason for their addition to the growing list.

"It is therefore more difficult to use the multiple layers of protection that are traditional, that would allow people who were in those countries to enter Canada—so it's not based on nationality at all," he said.

Foriegn nationals from those nations will not be allowed to enter Canada, and those with right of return to Canada will be subjected to enhanced testing for Covid-19.

"All air travelers coming from outside Canada, apart from the United States will now need to be tested at the airport in which they are landing in Canada, whether they are vaccinated or on vaccinated," said Duclos.

Further quarantine requirements will be put in place for any of the travellers from the 10 countries on the restrictions list.

"Upon entering Canada, these travelers with a right of entry will be tested again, and will be required to wait in a designated quarantine facility until the result of their day one test result is known," said Minister of Transporation Omar Alghabra.

He said that the Federal Government will be looking at possibly extending those measures for all travellers coming via air or land from the United States, if the national Covid-19 situation requires it.

"We will be working with provinces and territories to see how that could be done," said Duclos.

"We don't know if it would need to be done, or whether it could be done if the situation evolves and requires such a policy to be implemented." he said.