Alberta Premier Jason Kenney listens as the 2021 budget is delivered in Edmonton on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Alberta clamps down as COVID variants threaten to swamp health system

The province averaged about 1,000 new COVID-19 cases a day during the Easter long weekend

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is reinstituting some public-health restrictions, saying that variant cases of COVID-19 continue to soar and are on track to swamp the health system by mid-May.

Kenney announced Tuesday that restaurants must close to in-person dining starting Friday.

Retail stores currently allow 25 per cent customer capacity, but that will be lowered to 15 per cent starting Wednesday, and low-intensity group fitness activities will once again be banned.

Indoor social gatherings remain banned and outdoor get-togethers can have no more than 10 people.

Kenney said Alberta is now seeing a third wave of COVID-19, driven mainly by the more contagious and dangerous variants.

The province averaged about 1,000 new COVID-19 cases a day during the Easter long weekend, and the death total has now surpassed 2,000 in the province.

Kenney said that given more vaccine doses are arriving, the province will also ramp up vaccinations and broaden eligible age groups.

There were more than 10,000 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta on Tuesday, and about 43 per cent of them were variants.

There were 328 people in hospital with the illness, 76 of whom were in intensive care.

Kenney said Alberta is on track to have 2,000 new infections a day and 1,000 people in hospital with COVID-19 by the end of April.

It’s a race between vaccines and variants, he said, and right now the variants are winning.

“This (latest) wave is here,” Kenney told reporters.

“These trends would threaten the maximum capacity of our health-care system by next month, right when we’re reaching critical mass of vaccination.”

The Canadian Press

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