The world junior hockey championships are cutting crowd capacity in half for all games, after Alberta tightened restrictions amid the surging Omicron variant.
Starting Friday, all Alberta venues with a capacity above 1,000 people will be capped at half capacity. Venues with a capacity of 500 to 1,000 will be limited to 500.
Attendees must be masked at all times. Food and drink can’t be consumed in seats or at intermission to ensure masks are worn throughout.
Hockey Canada said in a statement Tuesday that the event ticketing team is addressing how to implement the change and will be in contact with ticket holders by the end of day on Dec. 23.
“We thank our ticket holders for their patience and request that they please wait to receive the detailed communication before inquiring about next steps,” the statement said.
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The world championships are scheduled to start on Boxing Day in Edmonton and Red Deer.
Alberta’s chief officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Tuesday that there were 6,045 active Omicron cases in Alberta, an increase of nearly 600 from the day before. She said variant case count is doubling every two to three days.
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Pre-tournament games at the world junior hockey championships, which were supposed to have started this past Sunday, had already been pushed back and reduced due to the “changing epidemiological situation” around the pandemic, Hockey Canada said in a statement.
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Each team will play one game on Thursday, with Canada taking on Russia.
“With five exciting games scheduled for Edmonton and Red Deer, we look forward to the teams hitting the ice in both communities and getting the World Juniors festivities underway,” said Dean McIntosh, Hockey Canada’s vice-president of events and properties.
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Eleven games had originally been scheduled as part of the pre-tournament schedule.
The teams arrived in Canada last week. Players and staff were required to produce two negative tests before departing for Canada and have been tested every day since their arrival.
The 2021 world junior championship in Edmonton was held minus fans because of the pandemic.
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The new restrictions will also apply to upcoming Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames hockey games.
On Tuesday, Hinshaw reported 786 new cases of COVID-19 for a total of 6,045 active cases. There were also two more COVID-19-related deaths, bringing that total to 3,294.
There were 329 people in hospital, including 69 in intensive care. In pre-pandemic days, Alberta had a maximum 173 ICU beds, but officials have been adding ad hoc spaces since then and had to more than double capacity in the last wave to meet demand.
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