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Alberta’s health authorities has again cancelled its annual announcement of New Year’s babies due to a spike in respiratory infections taxing the province’s health-care system.

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Neither Alberta Health Services (AHS) nor Covenant Health, a Catholic health-care provider in the province, will be announcing the identities of the first babies born in 2023, AHS said in a Thursday news release. 

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The health authority attributed the decision to a surge in respiratory illnesses causing “capacity challenges” at Alberta health-care facilities.

“While we understand that this is a traditional news event, it is simply not possible to invite media into our facilities at this time, or facilitate media interviews,” AHS said. “In addition, our labour and delivery teams are extremely busy and priority must be given to patient care.”

While winter is typically a peak time for respiratory illnesses, Alberta is seeing an early rise in infections that include influenza, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections that could create “a severe season,” Dr. Mark Joffe, Alberta’s interim chief medical officer of health, said in November.

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AHS describes RSV as a common childhood infection causing runny noses, coughing and sneezing that may lead to breathing problems, such as pneumonia, that require hospital care.

The health authority also cancelled its newborn announcement in 2021 and 2022, the latter of which would have coincided with the fifth wave of COVID-19 infections.

Toward the end of 2021, a new and highly infectious Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus sparked a massive spread in COVID-19 that brought active cases in the province to new heights in 2022.

As with its 2021 announcement, AHS said it hopes to resume the tradition for the following year and offered advance congratulations to families with newborns in 2023.

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