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A sign instructs people to wear masks in downtown Calgary on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020.

Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Alberta is giving 700 more peace officers the power to enforce COVID-19 restrictions as hospitalizations for the virus continue to climb in the province.

“We are not asking these officers to stop cold their day-to-day priorities or to harass responsible Albertans going about their everyday lives,” Justice Minister Kaycee Madu said Friday, as Alberta reported 1,227 new COVID-19 cases and nine more deaths.

Police officers and health inspectors also have the ability to enforce the rules.

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Federal data shows that as of Friday, Alberta had the highest seven-day infection rate in Canada with 209 cases per 100,000 people.

Alberta has 405 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 86 in intensive care. A week ago, there were 55 patients in intensive care with COVID-19.

Postponing surgeries is one of the ways the province is freeing up space to accommodate more people severely ill with the virus.

New measures came into effect Friday to help blunt the spike in cases. Private indoor social gatherings are banned, capacity limits have been imposed on stores and students between grades 7 and 12 switch to remote learning on Monday.

Fines for breaking the rules range from $1,000 to $100,000 in extreme cases that make it to court.

When asked whether there would be crackdowns on antimask rallies, Madu said police will make independent decisions.

“But as minister of justice, my expectation is that those who are in violation of the measures that we have put in place would have to be held accountable.”

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Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said she is disappointed to hear about Alberta Health Services inspectors being verbally abused.

“Nobody deserves that, least of all the people who are working to keep all of us safe,” she said.

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