Now is not the time to ease current health restrictions, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said on Monday afternoon.
Shandro alluded to the hospital benchmarks being partially met because there needed to be fewer than 300 hospitalizations while those rates continue to decline.
There are 280 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, but that number has grown in the past seven days.
“There will be no easing of restrictions at this time. This is the safe move, this is the smart move for our province and it is absolutely necessary to avoid a third wave that would take more lives and once again, put more pressure on the hospital system,” said Shandro at the daily COVID press conference.
“The fact is we simply haven’t received enough vaccines from the federal government to fully protect those who are most likely to end up in a hospital. We have also seen increases in both our active and new daily cases. The positivity rate is also increasing in all five of our zones,” he said.
The decision comes as March 22 was the soonest the province could move into Step 3 of the province’s re-opening plan.
Shandro said there is no specific date for re-evaluating whether or not to ease more restrictions.
In an interview Friday, Premier Jason Kenney said he hoped that this week the province could move into the next step. Kenney hinted toward mass restrictions being eased if the majority of Albertans over 50 get vaccinated–something he suggests could come in late spring if vaccine shipments arrive.
Step 3 includes allowing private indoor social gatherings with restrictions, adult team sports, easing of youth sport measures, the opening of casinos, movie theatres, museums, art galleries, and lessen limits on worship centres.
Shandro said that based on transmission rates, the government expects to have 300 people in hospital within a week.
Currently, 46 per cent of those in hospital are 65 and under and 88 per cent of those in ICU are 65 and under.
Over 70,000 vaccine appointments are booked this week with over 487,000 doses administered.
According to the province’s virus data map, in the Lakeland area, the County of St. Paul has 62 active cases and the County of Smoky Lake has 34 active cases of the virus as of Monday.
There are 27 active within the M.D. of Bonnyville and 19 active within the City of Cold Lake.
Six cases are active in the County of Vermilion River, two active in Lac La Biche County, and now zero active within the County of Two Hills.
Provincially on Monday, there are 456 new cases, 110 of those are new variant cases which account for 16 per cent of all active cases in Alberta.
Five deaths were reported in the past 24 hours according to Alberta Health.