Albertans to receive free rapid COVID-19 tests ahead of holidays –

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Just in time for holiday gatherings, the Alberta government will be giving out free rapid COVID-19 test kits.
Global News confirmed with sources that the government will be making the announcement at its regularly scheduled COVID-19 update on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m.
Read more: COVID-19: Alberta could see ‘modest, common-sense relaxation of measures for Christmas’
Sources said pharmacies will be able to give out a rapid test kit that will include five single-use rapid tests. One kit will be available per person, every two weeks, with tests to be used every 72 hours.
The person has to be asymptomatic and have a valid Alberta health care card.
Tests have already started to be ordered by pharmacies, though there’s no word yet on when shipments will arrive and if it will be on a one-time or continual basis.
Read more: Millions of unused rapid COVID-19 tests prompt calls for greater access to free swabs across Canada
Sources also tell Global News though rapid testing will be available free of charge, it won’t replace the Restrictions Exemption Program (REP), meaning a person is still required to be double vaccinated to board a plane or to eat at a restaurant.
In that, the tests are meant to give peace of mind to those who are gathering with family over the holidays.
At a news conference last Friday, the premier hinted free rapid tests were on the horizon for Albertans.
When asked why the government wasn’t distributing millions of rapid tests it allegedly had in storage, Jason Kenney was quick to point out they were being given out in various ways.
“Through the health-care system, to priority organizations, to many non-profits and community groups, to people on the front lines,” Kenney said.
He also pointed out tests were distributed to parents of kids at schools with outbreaks.
“On Tuesday of next week, there will be an announcement of a much broader rollout of the rapid test kits.”
Alberta confirmed an additional 863 COVID-19 cases over the weekend, Alberta Health announced on Monday.
There were 373 cases identified on Friday, 288 on Saturday and 202 on Sunday.
There are now 4,182 active cases across the province.
Read more: City sets guidelines for when Edmonton’s COVID-19 mask bylaw to be reviewed
The Calgary zone has the most cases with 1,732. There are 1,264 active cases in the Edmonton zone, 525 in the Central zone, 418 in the North zone and 237 in the South zone. There are six active cases not affiliated with a specific zone.
Of the newly reported cases, one is a suspected case of community transmission with an unknown source. It is currently under investigation and we will update Albertans as we learn more. (5/9)
— Dr. Deena Hinshaw (@CMOH_Alberta) December 13, 2021

In a series of tweets, Hinshaw said Alberta has identified seven new Omicron cases, one of which is a suspected case of community transmission with “an unknown source.”
Alberta Health Services is doing contact tracing for all close contacts of cases that are positive or suspected to be positive with the Omicron variant, Hinshaw said. Contact notifications are also being done for close contacts of COVID-19 cases who have recently travelled outside of Canada and the United States where it hasn’t been determined yet if they are positive for the Omicron variant, she explained.
“We have many tools at our disposal to protect ourselves from COVID-19, including continuing to follow current public health measures, getting fully vaccinated and staying home if feeling ill.”
The positivity rate was 3.64 per cent as of Sunday.
There were 357 people in hospital – down from 367 on Friday’s update – and 68 of those people were receiving care in the ICU. That number is down slightly from 71 on Friday.
On Friday, the premier said the province needs to get the total number of ICU admissions, including non-COVID patients, below 173 in order to ensure no surgeries are cancelled or postponed.
There were three additional deaths reported to the province over the weekend.
Two of the deaths were reported in the Central zone: a man in his 70s and a man in his 80s, both with pre-existing conditions.
The other death was a man in his 70s in the North zone with no pre-existing conditions.
There have now been 3,275 COVID-19 deaths in Alberta.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 338,428 Albertans have contracted COVID-19, while 331,097 have recovered.
With files from Lauren Pullen, Global News and Kirby Bourne, 630 CHED
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