Melanie Risdon

Published:December 21, 2021

-Western Standard


Just ahead of the Christmas break, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has brought in additional restrictions due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant across the province.

The province opened access to COVID-19 booster shots for Albertans aged 18 and older who’ve had their second dose at least five months ago.

And new restrictions set to take effect on December 24 focus on decreasing the risk of spread through super-spreader events in large capacity venues.

Albertans are also being asked to reduce social contacts over the holidays by 50%.

“While these new measures will hopefully lower the risk at large events, our small everyday actions can have a big impact,” said Kenney.

“This is why I appeal to all Albertans to reduce their number of contacts by half over the coming weeks, follow the guidelines already in place, and get the vaccine booster as soon as they are eligible.

“It’s the single most important thing anybody can do right now to protect themselves from Omicron.”

The new mandatory measures taking effect at 12:01 a.m. on December 24 are:

  • For venues in the Restrictions Exemption Program : 50% capacity limit at venues that seat more than 1,000 people. For venues with capacity of between 500 and 1,000 occupants, 500 is the limit.
  • No food or drink consumption in seated audience settings or during intermissions in the above-mentioned venues.
  • There is no impact on venues under 500.
  • Maximum table capacity of 10 people in restaurants, pubs and bars. No mingling between tables.
  • No interactive activities at restaurants, pubs and bars (e.g., dancing, darts and billiards).
  • Restaurants, pubs and bars must stop liquor service at 11 p.m., and close at 12:30 a.m.

Restrictions on indoor and outdoor social gatherings including weddings, funerals, places of worship and businesses remain the same and the provincial government is encouraging Albertans to avoid workplace holiday social gatherings.

Masking in all public spaces including those participating in the REP will also continue to be mandatory.

“These new measures, along with more boosters and rapid test availability, will help slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Health Minister Jason Copping.

“These efforts are critical as work continues to prepare our health-care system for potential challenges from the Omicron variant.

“I know Albertans are tired of the pandemic, but we need to take what we have learned from previous waves and urgently apply it to our current situation.”

It was advised Albertans take the first mRNA vaccine available to them for a third dose.

Although both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines offer a high level of protection against COVID-19, only Pfizer is being offered for those aged 18 to 29 due to the slightly increased risk of myocarditis in younger people, especially in males.

Kenney also announced the province authorized the direct purchase of 10 million rapid tests with delivery expected in January.

Free rapid test kits were made available to Albertans on December 17. More than 2.5 million tests — or 500,000 tests kits — were shipped to participating AHS and pharmacy locations and the province confirmed there’re more to come.

Visit to find the location nearest you with available stock, as many locations still have supplies available.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, suggested Albertans use masks that fit well and are of high quality. Those with severe risk factors are also advised to wear medical masks in all settings outside their households.

“Now more than ever, it’s important for Albertans to follow public health measures and consider how their actions may affect others,” said Hinshaw.

“While we are still learning about Omicron, we do know that it is highly transmissible — cases are currently doubling in a matter of days. Reducing contacts will not only slow the spread of Omicron, but it can help us gain valuable time to prepare for what is to come.”

Hinshaw said within the last 24 hours, Alberta has seen 786 new COVID-19 cases with 329 requiring hospitalization, 69 currently in ICU and two Albertans have died.

Hinshaw also said Omicron is now considered the primary variant with 1,609 cases in Alberta since it was first detected less than three weeks ago. Omicron cases are doubling every two to three days, according to Hinshaw.