Alberta is imposing new, wide-ranging COVID-19 restrictions in order to protect the health-care system from crumbling.
In a short address Tuesday night, Premier Jason Kenney announced sweeping COVID-19 public health measures that will be in place for the next three weeks. The new set of rules apply to municipalities or areas with more than 50 cases per 100,000 people or 30 or more active COVID-19 cases. This would include all central Alberta communities except Drumheller.
“If you can stay home please stay home, at least over the next three weeks. I know all of this is discouraging to hear, nobody wants to be here, especially after 14 months with multiple waves of this pandemic,” said Kenney.
“But our commitment to the health and safety of Albertans must come first.”
Starting Friday, kindergarten to Grade 12 students across the province will move to online learning until May 25.
All post-secondary institutions must shift to online learning Wednesday.
As of Wednesday, outdoor gatherings are reduced from 10 to five people, with a strong recommendation to keep those gatherings to just two people. Retail services must limit customer capacity to 10 per cent of occupancy.
Funerals are limited to 10 people and faith services are allowed to have up to 15 people instead of the previous 15 per cent.
Workplaces with three or more COVID-19 cases will close for 10 days, except for essential and critical services. Kenney advised those who can work from home, should do so.
On Sunday at midnight, patio service at bars and restaurants across the province will close and move to take-out only.
Gyms, hair and nail salons and barbershops will also have to close Sunday at midnight for at least three weeks.
As of Sunday, all outdoor sports and recreation are now prohibited except with members of your household or, if living alone, two close contacts. This includes all group physical activities, such as team sports, fitness classes, training sessions, one-on-one lessons and training activities and practices, training and games.
The premier also announced that the fine for violating public health orders will be doubled from $1,000 to $2,000 and the province will be introducing a tougher protocol for repeat offenders.
“We will not tolerate those who endanger Albertans, while the vast majority of people are doing the right thing,” he said.
The new restrictions came just a week after the province imposed targeted measures on communities and regional COVID-19 hot spots including Red Deer.
“Governments must not impair people’s rights or their livelihoods, unless it is absolutely necessary to save lives or in this case, to prevent disaster from unfolding in our hospitals,” he said.
“Unfortunately, that is the situation we are facing today. The arrival of high transmissible variants is putting real pressure on our health-care system.”
Kenney noted that with more than 200 people in the ICU across the province and COVID-19 numbers still rising, the province’s health-care system will be tested in the coming weeks.
He said the province can open up to 425 ICU beds, but that would require mass cancellations of surgeries and other care.
“We will not permit our health-care system to be overwhelmed. We must not and we will not force out doctors and nurses to decide who gets care and who doesn’t,” he said.
“That is why we must act now.”
Some municipalities with 50 cases per 100,000 people or less than 30 active cases will follow slightly different restrictions.
These communities still must close all indoor fitness facilities, close all indoor fitness facilities and indoor sports. Outdoor recreation can continue with up to 10 people and all outdoor social gatherings must be limited to no more than 10 people. Funerals in these communities will be limited to no more than 20 people. Drumheller is the only central Alberta community that falls in this category.