Premier Jason Kenney, health officials to announce new COVID-19 measures

As Ottawa prepares to clamp down on international travel, Albertans are also preparing for news on provincial measures intended to curb the spread of Omicron.

Premier Jason Kenney will hold a news conference this morning to announce new steps aimed at curbing the spread of the variant of concern, as cases of the new strain continue to climb in Alberta.

Kenney, Health Minister Jason Copping and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, will speak at 9 a.m. MT.

You can watch the news conference here. 

The event was originally scheduled for Tuesday but was postponed to accommodate a meeting with Kenney, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other provincial premiers.

Multiple sources told CBC News and Radio-Canada that stronger travel measures — and the need to accelerate the rollout of third dose vaccinations — were discussed during the Tuesday evening call. 

Today, sources say the federal government is expected to renew an advisory against non-essential international travel.

If implemented, stricter international travel rules would reverse months of progress to reopen Canada’s borders after the country effectively shut down to non-essential travellers during the early stages of the pandemic.

Kenney’s news conference is expected to announce a plan to more widely distribute Alberta’s stockpile of rapid antigen tests.

According to a recent email from the Alberta government to a Calgary pharmacy, all Albertans will soon be able to access free take-home COVID-19 rapid antigen testing kits from participating pharmacies in Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary.

Albertans in other communities can access testing kits through Alberta Health Services sites. Pharmacies in Edmonton confirm pre-orders for the testing kits have already been made at select sites. 

Kenney has also promised to ease public health restrictions over the holidays while saying a decision on those regulatory changes must be made soon. 

During an update last week, Kenney promised a “modest, common-sense relaxation” of the rules so more Albertans could gather together for the holidays.

The arrival of Omicron, which appears highly contagious and capable of infecting vaccinated people more than previous variants, has prompted renewed concern about the spread of COVID-19. 

Cases of the variant continue to rise in Alberta. On Tuesday, the provincial total increased from 30 to 50. 

Alberta Health said Tuesday evening that two of the cases are of unknown origin and are suspected to be from community transmission. Most of the cases, 27, are in the Calgary zone.

Alberta health officials also reported 250 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and eight new deaths from the illness.The province’s COVID-19 related death total now stands at 3,283.

There are now 4,016 active cases across the province. There are 366 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 70 in intensive care.

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