COVID-19: Alberta cuts isolation period for vaccinated people without symptoms from 10 to 5 days

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Faced with record new infections driven by the Omicron variant, Alberta is halving the period of time vaccinated people who test positive for COVID-19 must isolate.

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On Friday morning, Health Minister Jason Copping announced that, starting Monday, people with COVID will have to isolate for just five days rather than 10.

This applies only to people with two shots of vaccine who are not symptomatic. Others must remain in isolation for the full 10 days.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw said the change is based on evidence that vaccinated people shed virus for a shorter period and are thus less infectious. The move follows a similar policy change by the U.S. CDC .

Copping and Hinshaw said the decision to cut isolation periods is in response to workforce-related challenges.

“The decision to shorten the periods of isolation is based on the science that shows full immunization does limit the duration of infectiousness,” Hinshaw said.

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“In my opinion, this is the best balance of benefits and harms, looking at all of our possible options. We also know that there are significant harms if essential services are disrupted, as we anticipate will be happening, due to the current surge of cases.”

She said Omicron “will be in every aspect of our society in the next several weeks.”

“We should all anticipate that wherever we go outside of our own homes, there’s somebody there who’s infectious with Omicron. This is spreading farther and faster than anything we’ve ever seen before.”

“A portion of our pandemic plan is related to the measures that we need to take to preserve essential services and to keep foundational structures functioning. So we do need to look at trade-offs, and we do need to make sure what we’re doing is minimizing the chance that people are out in public during their highest infectious period.”

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Labour groups and the Opposition NDP quickly condemned the decision.

“They’re giving employers the right to force people to work when they’re COVID positive and still symptomatic,” Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan said in a tweet.

“Hinshaw was very clear: this is NOT just for health care workplaces. Any employer can simply decide that it’s ‘essential’ for the sick workers to come in and force them to do so.”

NDP Health Critic David Shepherd said the move is “not a solution to widespread staffing issues in schools and hospitals that were directly caused by the policies of this Government.”

“We know the UCP Cabinet met for hours yesterday and all they came up with was delaying the reopening of schools because they have no plan to keep them safe and reduce isolation times. That is pathetic.”

More to come. 

jwakefield@postmedia.com

twitter.com/jonnywakefield

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