Alberta introduces new COVID-19 measures, offers $100 incentive to increase vaccine numbers

WATCH: 'For the love of God, please get vaccinated now.' In an effort to boost the province's vaccination rate beyond 70 per cent, Premier Jason Kenney announced Friday Albertans still not vaccinated will receive $100 gift cards if they get fully immunized.

In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 and get more eligible Albertans vaccinated against the virus, the province introduced new measures and an incentive to anyone who goes out and gets their first or second dose.

Premier Jason Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro made the announcements Friday morning.

(Click here for information on the new restrictions introduced and here for Friday’s COVID-19 numbers)

The incentive program will be available to anyone 18 or older and is in effect until Oct. 14, Shandro said.

Starting Sept. 13, Albertans can enroll online to get a pre-filled debit card with $100 on it at the government’s vaccine website.

“Everyone who registers and has their vaccines confirmed will receive one of these pre-filled cards,” Shandro said.

To date, 70.2 per cent of Albertans age 12 and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, meaning they’ve received two doses, while 78.3 per cent of eligible Albertans had received at least one dose.

“The Delta variant is ripping its way through this group at an aggressive rate,” Kenney said of the unvaccinated.

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“Because of the large group of people who have no vaccine protection, we have seen the Delta variant spread widely and cause severe outcomes at much greater rates in unvaccinated adults.”

Since July 1, data has shown those between the ages of 20 and 59 who are not vaccinated have had 50 to 60 times higher risk of being hospitalized with COVID-19, compared to those who are fully vaccinated.

According to Kenney, more than 80 per cent of all COVID-19 hospitalizations have been unvaccinated people since Aug. 1.

On Aug. 24, there were 243 non-ICU patients in the hospital with COVID-19. On Sept. 1, just over a week later, there were 373 people in hospital with COVID-19, a 54 per cent increase.

“The intensive care situation is even more serious,” Kenney said.

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On Aug. 24, there were 59 patients in the ICU with COVID-19. On Sept. 1, that number had jumped by 93 per cent to 114 patients.

“Please get vaccinated,” Kenney said. “These numbers say it better than anybody ever could.”

This is not a time for moral judgments as to why people haven’t gotten vaccinated, the premier added, saying his government has left “no stone unturned” in its effort to get people vaccinated.

“This is a lie,” Opposition leader Rachel Notley said. “Across Canada, the largest provinces are all adopting vaccine passports.”

By making this announcement, the premier is effectively telling people they don’t need to do their part until they get paid, she added.

“This is a dangerous message for this pandemic and for future ones.”

Most restrictions were lifted in Alberta on July 1, but the province is bringing some back in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, especially the Delta variant.

READ MORE: Alberta COVID-19 modelling projects province could see up to 300 ICU admissions this month 

Effective Saturday, Sept. 4 at 8 a.m., face masks will be mandatory in all public spaces and workplaces.

That means employees must mask-up for all indoor settings, except for at-work stations or when there are two metres of space or barriers in place.

Shandro also urged employers to pause back-to-work plans wherever feasible.

The mandate “will not need to apply to schools,” Shandro said, a move the president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association called “asinine.”

“Alberta’s elementary students are crammed into inadequately ventilated spaces, and the government is shirking its responsibility to offer the bare minimum protection for those who cannot be vaccinated and their families,” Jason Schilling said.

“The government is recommending that all unvaccinated persons limit indoor social gatherings to a maximum of 10 people and requiring all vaccinated persons to mask in public spaces, yet schools remain exempted.”

Schools boards will continue to set their own COVID-19-management protocols “as they deem appropriate,” Shandro said.

All licensed restaurants, cafes, bars, nightclubs and pubs will need to stop liquor service at 10 p.m. These businesses can remain open after that time, but can’t serve alcohol.

Read more:
Rate of COVID-19 cases 12 times higher among unvaccinated than vaccinated: PHAC

As well, the province is “strongly recommending” that anyone who is unvaccinated limit their indoor social gatherings to close contacts – a maximum of two different families up to a total of 10 people.

Vaccinated Albertans do not need to take similar gathering precautions.

“I know this is disappointing for some who have started to move back into their office, some that have planned large social events, these steps are the least intrusive things that we think are needed and they’re temporary.”

 

Alberta confirmed an additional 1,401 cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the province’s active case count to 13,495.

Of those, there were 3,803 active cases in the Calgary zone, 3,998 in the Edmonton zone, 1,712 in the Central zone, 1,398 in the South zone and 2,563 in the North zone.

There were 21 active cases not affiliated with a specific zone.

As of Friday’s update, there were 515 people in Alberta’s hospitals with COVID-19, with 118 of those people in the ICU.

There were two additional COVID-19 deaths reported over the last 24 hours.

During that same time period, the province conducted 12,551 COVID-19 tests. The seven-day positivity rate was 11.07 per cent.

As of Friday afternoon, 70.2 per cent of eligible Albertans were fully vaccinated with two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, while 78.3 per cent had received at least one dose.

To date, Alberta has administered 5,583,842 doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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