By Cole Parkinson
With numbers continuing to climb across Alberta, the provincial government has brought back some restrictions forward to get the numbers back down.
On Monday, Premier Jason Kenney introduced new restrictions on outdoor gatherings, schools, retail, restaurants, places of worship, person/wellness services, outdoor sports/fitness, funerals and post-secondary schools. The new restrictions came into effect May 5 and will remain in place for at least three weeks, unless indicated otherwise.
“This is a last resort and a necessary step. With cases continuing to rise, we have no choice but to take serious action now or jeopardize putting the health system at risk. If we don’t do this now, if this doesn’t work, then we’ll need a much longer list of restrictions, which no Albertan wants to see. The best way to get out of this is for all Albertans to follow these new measures and get vaccinated when it’s their turn,” said Kenney.
The following mandatory public health measures will apply to all communities with more than 50 cases per 100,000 people and with 30 or more active cases:
•Outdoor social gatherings – Effective May 5
•All outside social gatherings must be limited to no more than five people.
•This is a decrease from the previous 10-person limit.
•Mandatory physical distancing must be maintained at all times between members of different households.
•All indoor social gatherings are still prohibited.
•Indoor fitness – Effective May 5
•All indoor fitness must close, including for one-on-one training.
•Funerals – Effective May 5
•No more than 10 people can attend funeral services, including participants and guests.
•This is a decrease from the current limit of 20 people, and brings funerals in line with wedding services.
•Wedding and funeral receptions are still not permitted.
•Retail – Effective May 5
•Retail services must limit customer capacity to 10 per cent of fire code occupancy (not including staff) or a minimum of five customers.
•The 10 per cent capacity limit at shopping malls will exclude common area square footage.
•Curbside pick up, delivery and online services are encouraged.
•Post-secondary institutions – Effective May 5
•All post-secondary learning must shift to online learning only.
•Places of worship – Effective May 5
•Faith services are limited to in-person attendance of 15 people. This is a decrease from the previous 15 per cent capacity limit.
•Physical distancing between households must be maintained at all times.
•Physical distancing between households must be maintained at all times.
•Virtual or online services are strongly recommended.
•Drive-in services where people do not leave their vehicles and adhere to guidance are allowed.
•Hotels/motels – Effective May 5
•Hotels and motels can remain open but pools and recreation facilities must close.
•Working from home – Effective May 5
•Working from home remains mandatory unless the employer requires the employee’s physical presence to operate effectively.
•Where at work for operational effectiveness, employees must mask for all indoor settings, except in work stations or where two-metre physical distancing or adequate physical barriers are in place.
•Workplace transmission – Effective May 5
•Any workplace, except work camps and essential and critical services, with transmission of three or more cases will be required by health officials to close for 10 days.
•Any workplace that does not comply will be subject to enforcement.
•Schools (K-12) – Effective May 7
•All kindergarten to Grade 12 students will temporarily shift to at-home learning, starting on May 7. Students will return to in-class learning on May 25. Exceptions will continue to be available for students with disabilities so they can continue to attend in-person classes as necessary.
•Restaurants, bars, pubs, lounges and cafes – Effective at 11:59 pm on May 9
•In-person dining on patios is prohibited. Only take out or delivery services are allowed.
•Personal and wellness services – Effective at 11:59 pm on May 9
•Hair salons, barbers, nail salons, estheticians, tattoos and piercing, must close.
•Previously, these were allowed by appointment only.
•Health, social and professional services – Effective at 11:59 pm on May 9
•Regulated health services, such as physicians, dentists and chiropractors, can remain open by appointment only.
•Non-regulated health services, such as massage therapists and kinesiologists, can remain open by appointment only.
•Professional services, such as lawyers and photographers, can remain open by appointment only.
•Social services, such as shelters and not-for-profit community kitchens, can remain open.
•Sports, performance and recreation – Effective at 11:59 pm on May 9
•All outdoor sports and recreation are now prohibited except with members of your household or, if living alone, two close contacts. This is a decrease from the current limit of 10 people.
•all group physical activities, such as team sports, fitness classes, training sessions
•all one-on-one lessons and training activities
•all practices, training and games
•All indoor sport and recreation is prohibited, including youth sports.
•All indoor performance activity is prohibited, including youth performances.
•Professional sport organizations that have received an exemption can continue, provided protocols are strictly followed.
As of the morning of May 5, the Municipal District of Taber has 252.3 cases per 100,000 and 48 active cases.
All other public health measures remain in place, including masking and physical distancing requirements.
Fines for not following public health orders have also doubled to $2,000 for violations.
Repeat offenders, whether it is individuals, organizations or businesses, who have continually or repeatedly violate public health orders will be targeted with a new enforcement protocol.
“I know Albertans, even those who have carefully followed the health guidance and worked to keep not only themselves but their fellow Albertans safe, are tired. But if we can muster the strength to make it through these next few weeks, we will allow our vaccination program a chance to protect more Albertans, and in (the) end, we will get COVID-19 under control in Alberta,” added Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health.
The Opposition NDP were critical of the Premier’s announcement on Monday evening.
“The premier is continuing to make false promises and create false hope, setting up for further challenges and disappointment in the weeks to come,” said NDP Leader Rachel Notley. “He’s undermining peoples’ ability to plan. These new measures will have an immediate impact on Alberta small business owners struggling to stay afloat and to ride out this massive third wave.”
Notley was also concerned about UCP MLAs who have already come out in opposition of stricter measures.
“I am also concerned that tomorrow morning we will hear from UCP government MLAs telling Albertans that they oppose these new measures. I condemn this behaviour in the strongest possible terms, and I call on Jason Kenney to finally have the guts to throw these MLAs out of his caucus,” said Notley. “If you can’t support keeping Albertans safe, then you can’t sit in the government caucus. Period. It’s as simple as that.”
For more information on restrictions and COVID cases in Alberta, visit http://www.alberta.ca/coronavirus-info-for-albertans.