Alberta reports 251 new cases of COVID-19 as rules tightened for travellers returning to Canada by land

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Travel measures for those crossing the border by land into Canada tightened Monday, requiring travellers to test negative for COVID-19 and to begin a mandatory quarantine period.

The bolstered rules for international travel are due to rising concern about the spread of COVID-19 variant cases in the country. The variants, initially identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa, have proven far more contagious than the original strain, making them a threat to a nation on the mend from its second wave of cases this winter.

All 10 provinces in Canada have detected cases of the variant identified in the U.K.

Alberta has detected 164 cases of the U.K.-based variant and seven of the variant identified in South Africa, as of Friday. Alberta Health is only updating these numbers twice a week.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, has expressed her concern for the community transmission of the variants of concern.

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“The faster we identify variant cases, the faster we limit further spread,” she said during Friday’s press conference.

With the added precautions by the federal government on travel, those returning by land borders into Canada will be required to show proof of a negative PCR test that was taken within 72 hours before arrival, as of Monday. As well, returning travellers have a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Measures will tighten for non-essential travellers again in a week on Feb. 22, when those arriving by land or air will be required to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival and near the end of their mandatory 14-day quarantine. They will also have to submit their travel and contact information which will include a quarantine plan, before crossing the border or boarding a flight.

Canada’s Minister of Health Patty Hajdu, thanked Canadians who continue to make sacrifices to protect one another from the novel coronavirus, in a statement.

“We continue to detect variants of concerns, and this is why we are putting these additional measures in place. Now is not the time to travel, so please cancel any plans you might have,” said Hajdu.

As of Feb. 22, those travelling by air will also be required to reserve — prior to their departure to Canada — a three-night stay in a government-authorized hotel. The restrictions have few exceptions.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the purpose of the travel-related measures is to keep people safe.

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“These are some of the strongest border measures in the world. But with new variants emerging, we’re stepping them up even further,” said Trudeau during Friday’s press conference.

“We will not allow the irresponsible decisions of a few to put the lives of everybody else at risk. We will do everything we can to protect people and keep this virus under control. These border measures will help stop the spread of COVID-19 and new variants.”

Alberta reports 251 new cases of COVID-19, sixth health-care worker to die from COVID-19

A sixth Alberta health-care worker died from COVID-19 over the weekend, a man in his 50s who worked at a continuing-care centre in the Edmonton zone.

All six deaths of health-care workers have occurred within the past several weeks.

The first Alberta health-care worker to die from COVID-19 was a worker at Bethany Riverview long-term care facility in southeast Calgary on Dec. 28. Since then, two other health-care workers have died in the Calgary zone and three in the Edmonton zone.

Two deaths were reported Monday, including a man in his 70s from the Calgary Zone. Alberta’s death toll now sits at 1,782.

Hospitalizations rose from 351 on Sunday to 356 on Monday, though it remained lower than the 359 reported on Saturday. Two fewer people were in intensive-care units by Monday, however, with 58 reportedly requiring an ICU.

Alberta reported 251 new cases Monday, bringing the number of active cases up to 5,222.

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Alberta has administered 146,603 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, by the end of the day on Sunday. This includes 51,611 people who have been fully immunized with their first and second shots.

A temporary immunization clinic is opening for urban Siksika Nation members who are 65 years and older. The clinic is opening at the Siksika Family Services Office for four days this month to offer appointment-only COVID-19 vaccines for nation members in the city.

Hinshaw is scheduled to provide a live update on the province’s response to the pandemic on Tuesday.

sbabych@postmedia.com
Twitter: @BabychStephanie

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