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Alberta to end its vaccine-passport

Edmonton—Alberta’s vaccine passport program will come to an end by midnight on Tuesday, Premier Jason Kenney has announced.

The passport system, dubbed as the Restrictions Exemption Program, is the first of the province’s current public health restrictions to go in a phased approach laid out by Kenney at a press conference Tuesday.

“Now is the time to begin learning to live with COVID,” said Kenney. “These restrictions have led to terrible division.”

“We cannot remain at a heightened state of emergency forever. We have to begin to heal.”

Kenney announced a three-stage approach for the loosening of public health measures.

First, the province will remove nearly all restrictions for children, including the kindergarten to Grade 12 mask mandate, by the coming weekend. Children who are 12 and under also won’t have to abide by the general mask mandate in Alberta. The general mandate still applies for the rest of the population.

“It is time to let kids be kids,” Kenney said.

Some capacity limits will still be in place in Alberta in the first stage.

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After three weeks of monitoring the changes, and if hospitalizations continue to decline, Kenney said, the province would move to Stage 2. This stage would see almost all the remaining restrictions lifted, including the general mask mandate, work-from-home orders, and capacity limits.

Kenney said he hopes to see Alberta reach this stage by March 1.

The final stage would see all remaining restrictions lifted. Kenney cautioned that if the health-care system feels too much pressure from COVID, the province could pause the lifting of restrictions.

“The threat of COVID-19 to public health no longer outweighs the damaging impact of public health restrictions,” said Kenney.

“We are well positioned to live with this virus.”

Kenney faced widespread criticism last summer after dropping COVID-19 restrictions and declaring it “the best summer ever,” while promising never to bring in a vaccine passport.

But in the face of skyrocketing cases throughout August and September, he reversed course, ushering in new restrictions and the passport system, dubbed the Restrictions Exemption Program.

It allows businesses and venues to scan QR codes on phones in order to check patrons’ vaccination status when they want to go to restaurants or attend events.

Ever since, Kenney’s faced a teetering situation within his own political party, as some have accused him of not doing enough to deal with the pandemic while others have said he went overboard with restrictions. He’s facing tanking approval ratings (in the low to mid-20s) and a looming leadership review in April.

Tuesday’s announcement also comes as Alberta slogs through a second week of truck convoy protests that have blared through cities and snarled traffic at the Coutts, Alta., border with Montana.

Thousands of protesters have rolled through both parts of the province, blasting truck horns and demanding an end to vaccine mandates, as well as Alberta’s vaccine passport system.

Kenney announced during a Facebook Live appearance last Thursday that he’d soon make public the end date for vaccine passports in the province.

Canada Press    2/8/2022


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