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Covid-19: Private gathering restrictions being lifted, rapid testing expanded

The Government of Alberta is lifting restrictions on household mingling over the holiday season.

Current limitations on a maximum of two households gathering will be lifted. In addition, prohibitions on unvaccinated Albertans gathering in private social settings will be lifted.

A total limit of 10 people will remain, with no limits on anyone under 18 years of age. Previously only children under 12 did not count towards this limit.

“Alberta was the only province to have to prohibit the indoor social socializing or gatherings of unvaccinated individuals, which we have concluded is leading to widespread non-compliance, and now with 90 per cent of adults having some level of vaccine protect protection, we believe it is no longer necessary,” said Premier Jason Kenney.

Albertans between the ages of 0 and 19 currently make up 35 per cent of all active provincial Covid cases.

Premier says changes make it possible for Albertans to follow rules

Kenney said that Alberta was the only province that had a prohibition on unvaccinated people gathering at indoor private events. He said that lifting this prohibition was a way of reducing division in Alberta.

"There's been enormous stress and strain division amongst in families and communities and organizations," he said.

"And if there's one small thing we can do that takes away another reason for division ... if we can instead put that decision back to individual families how they can be Covid careful—they can use rapid testing if they're having family gatherings—there are other measures that they can take."

The premier said he didn't believe Albertans would follow the previous restrictions during the holidays.

"We're trying to make them reasonable in a way that people can realistically follow them after 21 months of this," he said.

Unvaccinated and partially vaccinated Albertans currently make up 65 percent of provincial hospitalizations. That's 239 out of the 366 patients currently in hospital.

Over the past 120 days, unvaccinated and partially vaccinated Albertans have made up 73 per cent of all detected Covid cases.

Government calls changes modest

Minister of Health Jason Copping called these changes to indoor gathering rules modest.

"We need to be very cautious about this holiday season. And keep in mind that gathering restrictions, indoor masking, and physical distancing requirements are all still in effect, even if you've been immunized, and even if you have tested negative for COVID-19," he said.

Alberta's Chief Medical of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said that there are no risk-free gathering options, but that the impacts of public health restrictions are real. She offered a number of things that Albertans can do this Christmas to reduce risk.

She called on Albertans to limit the number of people at gatherings, encouraging those attending to be fully vaccinated, asking guests to wear masks when not eating or drinking, and improving indoor air ventilation.

"It's also critical that if someone hosting is feeling unwell, they need to cancel that gathering," she said.

Previous Private Gathering RestrictionsCurrent Private Gathering Restrictions
Vaccinated: Indoor private social gatherings are limited to 2 households (yours plus one other) up to a maximum of 10 vaccine-eligible, vaccinated people and no restrictions on children under 12.

Unvaccinated: Indoor social gatherings are not permitted for vaccine-eligible people who are unvaccinated.

This restriction does not apply to mutual support groups, or to workers who need to access your home to provide caregiving support or home repairs and maintenance.
Indoor private social gatherings are limited to a maximum of 10 people 18 and older, no limits on those under 18.

This restriction does not apply to mutual support groups, or to workers who need to access your home to provide caregiving support or home repairs and maintenance.

Rapid testing expansion

Alberta is expanding rapid testing for Covid-19 this holiday starting Dec. 17.

Kits will be available on a first-come-first-serve basis across the province at approximately 740 Alberta Health Services sites and pharmacies. Each kit will contain five rapid tests.

"Rapid testing can be helpful in getting Albertans who have potentially become infected to isolate before they may even realize that they have the disease," said Kenney.

People will be able to pick up one test kit every two weeks. They may also pick up kits for others in their households provided they have those individual's Alberta health care number.

An initial 500,000 kits representing 2.5 million tests have been made available.

The province is recommending that the tests be used 72 hours apart. Also if a person is a close contact of a confirmed Covid patient. Minister Copping reiterated that the rapid tests do not replace the more accurate PCR tests.

"So if you receive a positive result from a rapid test, you must isolate, and you should properly complete the online assessment and book a PCR test with AHS to confirm the result," he said.

"Similarly an initial negative does not necessarily mean you're negative for COVID-19."

Prime Minister met with Premiers Tuesday

The Prime Minister and provincial and territorial Premiers met yesterday to discuss ongoing efforts to combat the spread of Covid.

Financial supports being given towards addressing the pandemic were highlighted in statement released last night from the Prime Minister's office.

The statement highlighted the $1.7 billion being used to procure rapid testing supplies. In addition, $2 billion has been made available for the procurement of Covid therapeutic medicines by the federal government.

"The Prime Minister emphasized that Canada is well positioned to ensure a reliable supply of therapeutics, with contracts in place with Merck and Pfizer, pending Health Canada approval of their anti-viral treatments," said the statement.

Border testing expanded, travellers warned to stay home

Canada’s Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos said Wednesday, that the epidemiological situation in the nation is changing rapidly with the Omicon variant.

The federal government is predicting a significant resurgence in cases nationally.

New measures will be implemented by the Government of Canada for cross-border travel, with further announcements to follow.

The government previously announced restrictions that began in November on entry into Canada by non-residents and Canadians.

The federal government has advised against non-essential international travel during the holiday season.

“I say very clearly, now is not the time to travel,” said Duclos.

“The rapid spread of the Omicron variant on a global scale makes us fear the worst for Canadians that we think are travelling—Canadians could contract the virus or get stranded abroad,” he said.

Increased testing capacity at the borders will be implemented. This will be in place for four weeks, and evaluated at the end of that period.

The federal government has earmarked nearly $12 billion for lockdown financial support programs.