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Just when it seemed like things were getting back to normal, Omicron has changed everything. We’d like to hear from you on this latest wave of the virus.
When Alberta’s top doctor takes time off, the role isn’t left with an automatic email response — but the province’s second-in-command has typically remained out of the spotlight during the pandemic.
On Tuesday, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said she would be taking two weeks away from work starting at the end of this week, including when the province lifts the majority of health restrictions on March 1.
“Minister Copping will provide regular COVID updates to media during that time, and my team will continue to monitor the data and provide input on the response,” she said.
The city’s top cop is defending how the Edmonton Police Service has handled ongoing convoy protests, stressing safety is a top priority.
Speaking to media Wednesday afternoon, Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee said over the past three weeks the service has managed to limit disruption, prevent entrenchment, and limit any escalation between protesters and residents, and between protesters and counter-protesters.
Last week, the city was granted an injunction for excessive noise, but police were criticized for not enforcing it on Saturday. McFee said while the injunction was well-intended and sincere, it did not provide the effective outcome people were hoping for.
“As it stands, the injunction does not grant us any more power than we currently have through existing bylaws,” McFee said.
Anti-hate activists say there are troubling indications some of those allegedly involved in a murder conspiracy linked to the Coutts anti-COVID-19 restrictions border blockade are white supremacist extremists who pose a growing threat to Canadians.
Those comments come after four Albertans were charged with conspiracy to murder and a host of others with firearms and mischief offences after more than a dozen rifles and handguns and body armour were seized from three trailers in Coutts on Monday.
What grabbed the attention of anti-racism activists were patches attached to two sets of body armour seized by Mounties at Coutts and displayed in a photo supplied to journalists.
One of them displayed the word ‘infidel’ with Arabic script translating to kaffir — a logo worn by white supremacists and Islamophobes, said Mustafa Farooq, CEO of the National Council of Canadian Muslims.
Street Church minister Artur Pawlowski presents an ongoing threat to the public to continue breaking the law in his continuing crusade against pandemic-related health measures, a Lethbridge judge ruled Wednesday.
Provincial court Judge Erin Olsen said Crown prosecutor Steven Johnston had established sufficient grounds to order Pawlowski held without bail pending trial on charges related to allegations he incited protesters to continue an ongoing blockade of the Coutts border crossing.
“I have concluded that the Crown’s … grounds (for seeking detention) are substantial and that there is a substantial likelihood that the accused will, if released from custody, continue on offending, or interfering with the administration of justice,” Olsen said, in detaining the Calgary preacher on Feb. 3 charges.
Here are today’s COVID-19 numbers released by Alberta Health:
Today, I’ve signed a letter along with @PremierScottMoe, @GovGianforte and 15 other American governors urging President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau to drop the cross-border vaccine mandate for truckers.
It’s bad public health theatre and it needs to go.
Read below ⬇: pic.twitter.com/xGKUaE98dT
The premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan have joined more than a dozen U.S. governors in calling for an end to mandated COVID-19 vaccines for cross-border truckers.
Alberta’s Jason Kenney and Scott Moe of Saskatchewan have signed a public letter urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden to reverse the decision.
The premiers say getting vaccinated is important, but the mandate will force out thousands from the trucking industry and aggravate existing supply chain problems.
The federal government, armed with new emergency powers, is promising quick action to clear a three-week old truckers’ blockade that has brought the centre of Ottawa to a standstill.
Protesters remain camped out on Parliament Hill, weeks after police first allowed hundreds of trucks to park in the riverside core of the city.
Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly quit on Tuesday after criticism that he did not do enough to stop the protests, which began as truckers objecting to cross-border COVID-19 vaccine mandates for rigs but has become more of an anti-government movement also directed at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Hospitalizations and other indicators show Alberta is well on its way to lifting all COVID-19 restrictions, senior provincial health-care officials said Tuesday.
The virus’s presence in wastewater has fallen dramatically in urban areas and total hospitalizations — including non-COVID-19 patients — is now lower than during typical mid-winter levels, said Health Minister Jason Copping.
The number of known active cases in the province has fallen by two-thirds in the past month to 19,050, he noted.
Many indicators peaked weeks ago, a reality now being confirmed, while the worst fears of the Omicron wave haven’t been realized, said Copping.
The sound of horns filled the air at Alberta’s main international border crossing as trucks, tractors and other vehicles rolled out from Coutts on Tuesday morning, bringing an illegal blockade to an end after 18 days.
RCMP Cpl. Gina Slaney said all protesters voluntarily left the Coutts border. Many of the protesters at a second blockade near Milk River also left, and police are now working to clean up the site, she said.
Protesters occupied the Coutts border crossing since Jan. 29 in opposition to COVID-19 health measures, snarling traffic, impeding international trade and restricting access to basic goods and medical services for area residents.
The Canada Border Services Agency said operations at the port of entry resumed around 11 a.m. Tuesday.
If there is a word to describe how business organizations are feeling following the end of the Coutts blockade, it is relief.
Business can proceed again, but the question for some is how much damage has been done already to the economy and Canada’s reputation.
The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) said about $750 million in trade was impacted over the 18-day stand-off with protesters at Alberta’s most important border crossing.
Students appear to be split over wearing masks to school this week as teachers carry the heavy burden of navigating potential divisions over individual freedoms and ethical responsibility to the vulnerable.
“It looks like it’s pretty much split half and half right now in terms of kids wearing masks or not,” said Krista Li, a parent of two children in the Calgary Catholic School District, who also sits on a parent council.
“But kids are definitely having the conversations, asking ‘why aren’t you wearing your mask, don’t you care about me?’ or … ‘you’re not supposed to wear a mask, that’s the government rule.’
“There’s a lot of divisions, and it’s stressful. Kids are worried about how they will impact the health of vulnerable people in their lives.”
Alberta’s increase in alcohol sales during the first year of the pandemic flowed nearly 43 per cent higher than the national average, according to provincial and federal statistics.
While wholesale to retail sales nationally climbed 4.2 per cent from April 1, 2020 to March 31 the following year, those revenues jumped by six per cent in Alberta, according to Statistics Canada and Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis respectively.
While beer in Alberta remained the number one in terms of those sales at nearly $952 million in that time period, it lost ground to sales of spirits, wine and coolers.
Calgary’s mask bylaw will be scrapped as soon as March 1, in line with the provincial government’s plan to lift COVID measures.
At a Tuesday meeting, city council opted to set an end to the mandatory mask rules that have been in place almost continuously since the summer of 2020.
Apart from exemptions for people who have specific medical conditions or are unable to remove their own masks, the Calgary bylaw requires everyone older than two to wear a mask in city facilities, on public transit and any other indoor space considered “publicly accessible,” like retail stores and building lobbies.
March 1 is planned as the next stage of the United Conservative government’s plan to lift public health rules, including indoor masking. Some councillors said continuing municipal mask rules beyond that would be confusing for the public.
Four protesters arrested at the Coutts border crossing have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder.
Eleven people had their cases addressed Tuesday in Lethbridge provincial court as Calgary defence lawyer Yoav Niv secured the release of seven of the suspects.
But Niv told Judge Gregory Maxwell that three of the group face a charge of conspiracy to commit murder and will have to have the issue of bail resolved before a Court of Queen’s Bench justice.
Crown prosecutor Steven Johnston said four people in total would be facing that charge.
Vaccinated travellers will no longer need a molecular COVID-19 test to enter Canada starting Feb. 28 because the COVID-19 situation in Canada has improved, the federal health minister announced Tuesday.
Travellers can instead opt for a rapid antigen test approved by the country in which it is purchased. However, Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said rapid tests will have to be administered by a laboratory or health care entity.
The move to lift some restrictions was welcomed by Calgary-based WestJet airlines. In a statement, the airline said it would continue to advocate, based on science and data, for the removal of all measures impacting fully vaccinated air travellers.
“As a fully vaccinated industry, we have worked with public health authorities and all governments to curb COVID-19 and today’s announcement validates that travel has never been a significant vector of transmission,” said Angela Avery, executive VP of external affairs.
“WestJet continues to advocate for the return to surveillance arrivals testing only and for the federal government to outline a recovery roadmap for the travel and tourism industry, based on science and reflective of the current realities of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Peter Sloly, the chief of police in Ottawa, has resigned and the RCMP and Ontario Provincial Police have taken control of enforcement in Ottawa.
The chief, who’s only held the job since October 2019, had come under heavy criticism for the perceived inaction of the Ottawa Police Service against the protesters who’ve snarled downtown Ottawa for more than two weeks.
On Tuesday, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said an integrated command centre has been set up so the RCMP and Ontario Provincial Police can share and assume command and control over enforcement related to the ongoing protests in Ottawa.
British Columbia will drop capacity limits for indoor and outdoor gatherings including at sporting events, fitness centres, restaurants, bars and nightclubs starting tomorrow.
People will be allowed to dance and mingle in public spaces starting at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday but masks and the COVID-19 vaccine card will still be required at organized gatherings like weddings and sports tournaments.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says B.C. isn’t out of the pandemic and officials know the virus could mutate into new variants that may evade immunity that has built up.
A new survey from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has found that most Alberta small business owners support the removal of health restrictions.
In this province, 78 per cent of small business owners surveyed said they support the end of travel restrictions, 72 per cent support the end of mandatory masking requirements, and 79 per cent support the end of capacity restrictions.
CFIB president Dan Kelley said the support was not universal, with some small business owners saying vaccine passports make customers feel safer.
The CFIB is calling on the provincial government in Alberta to come up with a plan to ensure businesses can stay open for good, with any future restrictions based firmly in science and with targets and dates for removal.
“Lifting restrictions does not mean that customers will flood back to their local businesses,” said Annie Dormuth, CFIB Alberta provincial affairs director. “Until public health officials and governments can reassure consumers that it is safe to return to office work, shopping, dining, events and travel, the COVID economic hangover will continue.”
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