Hinshaw addresses new variant of concern as Alberta adds 356 new COVID-19 cases

Edmonton –

Three more Albertans have died due to COVID-19 as the province added 356 new cases on Friday. 

There are also 455 COVID-19 patients in Alberta hospitals, including 90 in intensive care units. 

The three deaths were in Albertans ranging in age from in their 60s to more than 80 years old. They bring the number of deaths due to COVID-19 up to 3,235. 

Also Friday, the first doses of vaccine were administered to young Albertans between the ages of five and 11 years old. That age group has a population of just over 391,000 people, according to Alberta Health.  

More than three-quarters of all Albertans, 75.4 per cent, have had at least a first dose of vaccine. And, 71.1  per cent of the entire population have had a second shot. More than 361,00 additional doses have also been administered. 

Unvaccinated Albertans remain significantly more likely to suffer a severe outcome after contracting COVID-19, including hospitalization or death.

Alberta’s next data update is scheduled for Monday afternoon and will include data from Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

CONCERNS OVER NEW VARIANT

Canada will be banning the entry of all foreign nationals who have travelled through southern Africa in the last 14 days as concerns over a new coronavirus variant grow.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said anyone who has travelled through southern Africa in the last 14 days is being asked to quarantine now and to go for a COVID-19 test.

The countries include South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.

The news comes just after the World Health Organization (WHO) designated B.1.1.529 a variant of concern, and named it “Omicron.”

The variant is believed to have originated in South Africa.

According to the WHO, the variant was first reported from South Africa on Nov. 24.

“Early evidence shows an increased number of mutations and increased transmissibility,” Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw tweeted Friday.

“At this time, there have been no cases of this variant detected in Canada. I want to reassure Albertans that our genetic sequencing program here in Alberta can detect mutations of the virus, including this new strain (B.1.1.529),” Hinshaw added.

With files from the Associated Press

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