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Premier Jason Kenney says he is optimistic that Alberta will be able to ease public-health restrictions by the end of the month, despite a record high number of non-ICU hospitalizations because of COVID-19.

The province reported 1,585 people in hospital with the disease, the highest it has been since the pandemic began in early 2020.

There were 109 people in intensive care, which Mr. Kenney says represents 81 per cent of ICU capacity in the province.

Mr. Kenney says the province is seeing decreases in the total number of active cases as well as the positivity rate.

The Premier said last week that the government will move toward a widespread loosening of public-health measures once pressure on the health system eases, adding that he was confident it could come by the end of March.

He now says relaxing measures, including eliminating the proof-of-vaccination program, could come in February.

“Once we begin to see a sustained reduction in COVID pressure on the hospitals, I am looking forward to being able to make decisions about moving toward relaxation of public-health measures at that time,” Mr. Kenney said at a news conference Tuesday.

“I believe that will happen this month, in February.”

“While these overall trends are encouraging, and while we clearly did reach the peak of Omicron infections approximately two weeks ago we are not out of the woods yet, and I implore Albertans to continue to be mindful of this,” he said.

Mr. Kenney said there were about 51,000 active cases in the province two weeks ago, which came down to 35,322 on Tuesday.

“I believe we’ll be able to provide a framework for widespread relaxation of public-health measures and rules as early as next week and that the restrictions exemption program will be at the top of that list.”

The province also reported 13 new deaths, bringing the total number of COVID-19 deaths in the province to 3,579.

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