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Omicron: New venue restrictions, boosters expanded to all Albertans over 18

New restrictions are on the way this week, starting Friday.

Food and drink will no longer be able to be consumed at large venues, and new capacity limits will be added. Venues with over 1,000 capacity will be limited to 50 per cent, and venues with capacity between 500 and 1000 will be capped at 500 maximum.

Restaurants and bars participating in the province’s restriction exemption program will be limited to a maximum of 10 patrons per table. Those not participating will not be able to offer indoor dining.

Alcohol sales at licensed locations will also be limited, ceasing at 11 p.m.

The province has also asked people to do what they can to limit contact with others.

“We know that with the emergence of Omicron in the province, there’s the potential for our health care system to once again be severely stressed,” said Minister of Health Jason Copping.

Copping said that the province has the capacity to ramp ICU beds up to 380 from the current 228.

Booster shot program expanded

The Alberta government has expanded the booster shot program to all Albertans over the age of 18, as of today.

With the threat of the Omicron variant spreading in Alberta, the province has said they are expanding eligibility to prevent further community spread.

“We are going to be moving heaven and earth to get as many booster shots to Albertans as possible,” said Premier Jason Kenney.

Anyone who received their last Covid-19 vaccination five months or more ago can book their third dose online at pharmacies, and AHS clinics.

“Albertans who choose to get a third dose and make use of rapid tests are doing their part to help slow the spread of Covid-19,” said Minister of Health Jason Copping.

The province is encouraging Albertans to take the first mRNA vaccine that is available for their third dose, whether that is from Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech.

The Omicron variant, which was first identified in Alberta on Nov. 25, has spread rapidly to all parts of the province. As of Monday, there were a total of 1,609 cases identified across all health zones. In the Calgary Health Zone, there were 972 infections identified.

Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said that it was too soon to have conclusive evidence about the severity of the Omicron variant.

"In all places where Omicron is circulating, hospitalizations and ICU numbers rose several weeks after cases began to rise," said Hinshaw.

"I want to be clear that I believe this situation is so serious that my family has canceled our holiday plans," she said.

More rapid testing kits on the way

The province said that more rapid testing kits are on the way.

The Alberta Government will be purchasing up to 10 million rapid tests through private procurement, in addition to the tests being provided by the Government of Canada.

"I can assure Albertans that we're doing everything we can to get kits into people's hands as quickly as possible," said Kenney.

The tests will be available for Albertans starting in January.