Almost all COVID-19 public health restrictions will be lifted in Alberta on Canada Day as the province prepares to enter the final stage of its COVID-19 reopening plan.
Stage 3 of Alberta’s Open for Summer plan will begin on July 1, Premier Jason Kenney announced Friday.
“The end of this terrible time is just two weeks away,” Kenney said during Friday’s news conference which also saw the province kick off another round of second dose vaccine appointments.
Premier Kenney thanked Albertans for getting vaccinated and enduring a gruelling 16 months of restrictions which have put many Alberta businesses on their “last legs.”
“I never doubted that we would reach this milestone together, that we’d pull together as a province, as a people, and get ‘er done in the true Alberta spirit.”
The vaccine threshold required for the final stage of the province’s three-step reopening plan was met on Thursday when more than 70 percent of eligible Albertans had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We finally have the upper hand on this virus and can safely open up our province,” Premier Kenney said.
Alberta currently has 2,471 active cases, the lowest number recorded in the province since October, the premier said.
The number of active cases has decreased 61 percent since Stage 1 launched in June, Premier Kenney said. The number of people in hospital has dropped by 45 percent during the same time frame, he said.
For days, Alberta has been teetering on the edge of the vaccination threshold needed for the final stage of its three-step reopening plan.
As of Thursday, 70.2 percent of eligible Albertans had received at least a single shot of vaccine.
Stage 3 will herald the lightest restrictions seen in Alberta for months.
A ban on indoor social gatherings and current restrictions on outdoor gatherings will be lifted. Capacity limits for businesses and places of worship will be gone. Laws mandating masks will also be rescinded.
Isolation requirements for confirmed cases of COVID-19 and some protective measures in continuing care settings will remain.
Dr. Noel Gibney, professor emeritus at the University of Alberta’s department of critical care medicine, said the current reopening was very risky.
Dr. Noel Gibney, professor emeritus in the department of critical care medicine at the University of Alberta, said reopening now is risky.
Dr. Gibney, who also serves as co-chair of the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association’s Pandemic Response Committee, said the province needs to carefully monitor cases and plan for the possibility of another clampdown.
He said Alberta’s reopening plan was drafted before the arrival of the delta variant and fails to account for the potential impact of the highly contagious strain.
He said the rapid spread of the variant in the UK should serve as a warning.
Dr. Gibney expects the delta variant will become Alberta’s dominant strain by the end of July and contribute to a surge of cases in September.
“Whether there is a fourth wave or a fourth bump, I think time will tell,” he said on Friday.
“We’re going to see an increase in cases but what that translates into is really the question.”
On Friday, Premier Kenney acknowledged the ongoing risk of exposure. He said the province would continue to monitor infection rates and watch for outbreaks.
He advised people to “use common sense and exercise personal responsibility” when enjoying their new freedom two weeks from now.
“Variants will emerge, the most contagious variants will become, over time, the dominant variants,” he said.
“People will get infected. Some people will get sick. Regrettably, a few people likely will pass away, as has been the case forever with influenza, but we don’t shut down society to deal with that kind of limited and controllable risk. We manage the risk. The vaccines give us a superpower to manage it. Let’s embrace that.”
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