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Alberta reveals COVID-19 vaccination plan for 2021, set to begin on Jan. 4
The Alberta government revealed its plan for COVID-19 vaccine distribution in the province, with the first phase beginning in January.
“Smoother and rapid vaccine distribution will not only be essential to our economic recovery but...will be a matter of life and deaths for many Albertans and their family,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said at a press conference on Wednesday.
Kenney said he has been “assured” by the federal government that shipments will begin on Jan. 4 and continue in waves throughout the early part of next year. In the first three months of Jan. 2021, the province plans to administer vaccine to about 435,000 people, approximately 10 per cent of the population.
The priority groups include residents of long-term care homes or designated supported living, and staff in those facilities, on-reserve First Nations over 65 and seniors 75 and older. Healthcare workers will also be prioritized to ensure workforce capacity and because they are more likely to transmit COVID-19 to those at greatest risk.
The second phase of the vaccine distribution plan will have 30 per cent of Alberta’s population immunized by Sept. 2021. Kenney identified that in fall 2021, vaccine will be offered to all Albertans. He said this is the “unfortunate reality” that there are still several months to go before COVID-19 vaccine will be available to the general public.
The premier stressed that the provincial government will not make vaccination mandatory, adding that he plans to amend the the Public Health Act to remove the power of mandatory inoculation.
“Some think that this is controversial but we don’t live in a country where government can inject you with something against your will,” Kenney said. “But we need as many Albertans as possible to get the vaccination.”
“I will certainly chose to receive this vaccine when it’s my turn and I strongly urge others to do so.”
When asked when everyday activities in the province could look more like pre-COVID life, the premier said he hopes people will be able to get back a to a more “normal” life by the summer, after the most vulnerable populations get vaccinated by the end of March, with the next category of people immunized throughout spring and summer.
“That, I think, will significantly change the whole risk profile in the province,” Kenney said. “I hope and believe that by the summer we can get back to to summer events, they probably won’t be as big and there will probably by some guidelines and restrictions, we’ll have to wait and asses that, but I sure hope that people can get a whole lot closer to free and normal lives by next summer.”
‘What I want for Christmas is...’
As we approach the end of the year, Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia's provincial health officer, was asked at a press conference on Wednesday what she wants for Christmas.
“What I want for Christmas is everybody to stay home with their family and stay safe so we can get through to the next year,” she said.
Dr. Henry said that she wants people stay close to home and limit their travel. She stressed that if family members of people in B.C. are coming to the province, these individuals need to follow the orders and guidelines in place, no socializing and gathering outside of the home.
“I cannot stop you by an order getting into your car or going onto a plane but I’m asking, in the strongest of terms, for us to stay put, to stay in our communities and to protect our communities,” Dr. Henry said.
Ontario ‘pushing’ for reduced quarantine requirement from travellers
At a press conference on Wednesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he is in “full support” of keeping the Canada-U.S. border closed to non-essential travel “to the best of our ability” but is actively working with the federal government on reducing the length of the quarantine requirement when people arrive in Canada.
“If you can land and you get tested right away, and the you get tested again, I think it’s five to seven days later, and they both come out negative tests, you should be able to go on your way,” Ford said. “I’m really pushing that.”
The premier went on to say that the federal government needs to do more when people in Canada, including taking everyone’s temperature upon arrive.
“Don’t just let them walk off and hop in a taxi and away they go,” Ford said.
The premier also spoke about why larger retailers, that sell a number of different products, are able to sell non-essential products while small businesses have to close in lockdown areas of Ontario.
“I have to follow the advice of the chief medical officer,” Ford said. “It really limits people from going out, making four, five, six stops on the way home to pick stuff up.”
When asked about the request from 50 retailers for the provincial government to open all retail store but impose a 25 per cent capacity limit on non-essential stores in lockdown areas, Ford said “his heart breaks” for these retailers.
“As much as I’d love to say yes...I have to follow the advice of the chief medical officer,” the premier said. “I put my business hat on, I’d switch those things open in a heartbeat but I can’t.”
“Health trumps my personal belief of doing something.”
Ontario continues to report more than 1,700 daily COVID-19 cases
Ontario reported 1,723 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, including 500 cases in Peel, 410 in Toronto and 196 cases in York Region.
The province confirmed 35 more deaths, bringing the total to 3,698.
There are now 656 people with COVID-19 in Ontario hospitals, including 183 in ICUs.
A total of 111 long-term care homes have an outbreak right now, which includes 664 active resident cases and 517 active staff cases.
Ontario reported 166 new school-related COVID-19 cases, including 140 student cases and 26 staff cases.
Quebec cases rise above 1,500
Quebec reported 1,514 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, including 386 cases in Montreal, 191 cases in Montérégie, 186 cases in the Quebec City region and 130 cases in Chaudière-Appalaches.
The province confirmed 43 more COVID-19 deaths, including nine that occurred in the last 24 hours.
There are currently 740 people in Quebec hospitals with COVID-19, including 99 in intensive care.