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'Real strain': Health minister wants to reduce stress on health care after COVID-19

CALGARY — Alberta's health minister says the province will remain vigilant despite lifting most restrictions in the province related to COVID-19.

Alberta lifted the last few pandemic restrictions last week including mandatory masking on public transit and isolation for people who test positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms.

Alberta ended most of its pandemic restrictions, including a proof of vaccination requirement for certain activities, school requirements and capacity limits for venues in February and March. 

Health Minister Jason Copping told reporters Wednesday that masking will still be required in medical facilities and Alberta will continue a surveillance program to monitor for emerging threats and a framework for implementing protective measures.

"Despite these changes I want to reassure Albertans that we are not forgetting about COVID or overlooking its challenges. We know COVID-19 will continue to circulate in Alberta and around the world," Copping said.

Copping said Alberta is bracing for an increase in colds and flus again in the fall but he says more has to be done to reduce the strain on the health care system, which was already a problem before the pandemic.

"We need to give the system more ability to manage any future wave of COVID-19 but we need to do much more than that. We need to recognize normal wasn't good enough back then and we need to do better."

Copping said more ICU beds are open and AHS is hiring more staff as quickly as possible.

"The system remains under real strain in Alberta and across the country. AHS and their partners continue to struggle with staff shortages in spite of the fact that the workforce is growing at the same time the system is managing a wave of patients," he said.

Copping said during the pandemic many people stopped going to the doctor and stayed at home. That's put added pressure on the health care system now.

"Now many of those same patients are coming back into the system and they're sicker than they otherwise would have been," said Copping.

"This care deficit is real and it's another feature of the pandemic we've never seen before."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 22, 2022.

The Canadian Press