David Marsden: It’s time to further ease COVID restrictions

The decreasing numbers of active COVID-19 cases are helping to accelerate a return to normalcy.

Restaurants and other eating and drinking establishments are already able to operate at 50 per cent capacity.

This week, the provincial government is expected to announce the early implementation of Stage 2 of its three-step economic relaunch. It had been scheduled for June 19.

Having spent an unprecedented amount of money on supporting people and businesses, it’s important Canadians don’t squander what must be an investment in our good health and ability to restart the economy.

It’s evident, as it should have always been, however, that shutdowns can’t continue forever.

There’s the devastating impact measured in high unemployment and lack of economic output, but also registered in less tangible ways, such as suicide and alcoholism, which are too often the result of persistent isolation.

ALSO READ: Kenney is all hat, no cattle

Alberta’s strong results give the Jason Kenney government cause to permit the opening of libraries, cinemas and theatres, and personal services such as manicures and artificial tanning, earlier than expected.

Restrictions would be placed on all of these activities to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

It was obvious a government-imposed lockdown could only persist for so long. Government leaders are making that point clear themselves.

We’ve got the spectacle of a prime minister who readily kneels alongside thousands of protesters, but closes down Parliament because he argues it’s unsafe to meet with Canada’s other elected representatives in person.

Justin Trudeau flouted the advice of public safety officials and put people with immune-compromised systems at risk.

Meanwhile, a father practising soccer skills with his son in Calgary was fined $1,200 for allegedly breaching social distancing rules.

We have entered the do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do realm of hypocrisy. Clearly, it’s time to acknowledge we’re ready to safely transition to business as usual.

There is the weighty subject of schools to consider. Continued so-called home learning should be rejected this fall, if at all possible, as a great number of parents have signalled.

An education delivered in the home in not the same as one enjoyed in a sun-lit classroom occupied by engaged students and led by a qualified teacher.

That’s why school districts have said students’ grades will not be revised downward since the suspension of regular instruction in March. It is recognition of the limits of well-meaning teachers trying to connect with students, some of whom possess learning struggles, sat at the kitchen table with myriad distractions.

Having youngsters at home all day also challenges working parents, many of whom have no affordable means of child care.

That’s among the reasons cited for so many people continuing to receive the $2,000-a-month benefit from the federal government, even though many employers are clamouring for workers to return to their jobs.

Post-secondary schools such as Red Deer College have already decided the fall semester will be offered online. Fair enough, but students deserve a financial break on their tuition.

Attending a virtual classroom is like buying a concert ticket, only to discover it’s going to be delivered on the computer.

It’s not the experience any student wishes for. If they want an internet education, they can sign up for all sorts of courses through institutions such as Athabasca University, which is a world leader in the delivery of online schooling and hasn’t made up its material at the last minute.

The solutions to the barriers Albertans face today are the same ones that have gotten us this far: common sense, along with plenty of hand washing and hand sanitizer.

David Marsden is managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

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