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Rise in COVID-19 variants a 'wake-up call' but no lockdown coming: Alberta premier

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LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says rising cases of more contagious COVID-19 variants should be a "wake-up call" but his government won't impose harsh measures such as curfews or stay-at-home orders. 

The province recorded 871 new infections on Wednesday, nearly 300 more than a day earlier. That's the biggest day-over-day increase since mid-January. The test positivity rate was 7.5 per cent. 

Nearly 32 per cent of Alberta's active cases involved variants of concern, up from about 20 per cent a week ago and three per cent in late January. 

There were also three additional deaths, bringing the total to 1,990. Some 301 COVID-19 patients were in hospitals, including 63 in intensive care.

Kenney said he would discuss the situation Thursday, ahead of the Easter long weekend, with chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw. 

"We think a lot of the spread that is happening now is because people have become tired of all of this. They've either kind of forgotten about the guidelines or they just wished them away," he said. 

"We would ask people, especially with Easter and the spring holidays coming up, to ... stay at home. Please don't socialize outside of your family group or your close contact cohort. The vast majority of transmission happens at home."

Kenney said Alberta won't aim to drive COVID-19 infections to zero with curfews, stay-at-home orders or widespread business closures. 

"The broader cost to peoples' lives, to their livelihoods, to our social and economic health, would be massive if we were to pursue true lockdown policies."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2021.  

The Canadian Press