Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Thursday that the province may consider a regional approach to loosening COVID-19 restrictions if numbers continue to decline. (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Thursday that the province may consider a regional approach to loosening COVID-19 restrictions if numbers continue to decline. (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

Premier open to loosening COVID-19 restrictions based on regional approach

Kenney also insists province has never been in a lockdown

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney hasn’t ruled out the idea of easing COVID-19 restrictions based on location.

In remarks during a press conference about protecting boreal ecosystems in Northeast Alberta, the premier said they will consider all options in relation to COVID-19.

“We’ve always said that we are open to taking COVID policy on a regional basis and we have at various points of the pandemic,” he said.

“The level of spread across the province since October was so high that we could not responsibly have a different approach in different regions.”

Kenney added that according to the chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the threshold to moving to a more regional approach is 50 cases or fewer, per 100,00 people, in a health zone. Kenney said the South zone is the only zone close to that mark, with about 100 cases per 100,000.

“We’re not close enough to that lower level of spread to take a faster approach to relaxation in any region,” he said.

“I get the frustration for people out there who live in – perhaps rural communities where there are no cases. Folks need to understand that transmission can happen very fast and we have to look at the broader trends, yes in the region but also the whole province.”

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The province is currently taking a phased approach to re-opening, based on hospitalizations. Step 1, which saw restaurants open for in-person dining and gyms allow one-on-one personal training, start on Feb. 8. Step 2 is expected to start three weeks after Step 1, when hospitalizations are below 450 and declining.

There were 421 people in hospital with COVID-19 across the province as of Thursday, according to statistics on the government’s website.

“We’ve made huge progress over the last 10 weeks or so and if we continue in the right direction, hopefully, some regions will be able to advance faster in opening the restrictions that exist,” he said.

Kenney also insisted that the province has never been in a COVID-19 lockdown.

“There is no lockdown in Alberta, there never was. Over 99 per cent of businesses in Alberta are able to operate right now, within our safe public health guidelines,” he said.

“Unlike other provinces we have never had a stay-at-home order, we have never had a curfew. Other provinces have shut down schools, we re-opened ours on Jan. 6… we are taking a balanced approach and we are happy to take a regional approach when the numbers make it safe to do so.”

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