The Alberta Government has loosened some restrictions that will start next Monday.
Personal and wellness services will be allowed to open by appointment only, Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced on Thursday afternoon, which includes hair salons, esthetics, tattoo parlours, and cosmetic treatments.
While indoor gatherings remain prohibited, up to 10 people will be allowed at outdoor social gatherings.
Funeral ceremony attendance will be increased to 20 people, with mandatory masking and two metre physical distancing. Funeral receptions are still not allowed.
“This limited easing of restrictions is possible thanks to the efforts of Albertans over the past few weeks,” said Premier Jason Kenney in a press release.
“But, we need to be careful that we don’t reduce too early and risk the steady improvements we’ve made since November. We want to ensure the safety of Albertans, while balancing the uncertainty faced by Alberta businesses and service providers. We will be continually evaluating the public health data to make adjustments where possible.”
Hair salons were growing more frustrated by their continued closure, feeling they had been singled out despite provincial officials saying no COVID-19 cases had been transmitted in these settings.
“Although we’ve seen a decline in transmission, our health-care system is still at risk. We must remain diligent in our efforts to bring our numbers down even further,” said chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw in the release.
“By easing some measures like outdoor gathering limits, we hope to support Albertans’ mental health, while still following other restrictions that are helping us reduce case numbers.”
The government said provincial and regional trends will continue to be monitored and assessed over the coming weeks to determine if further easing of restrictions may be considered.
Lakeland cases continue to rise
For the first time, there are over 100 active cases of the virus in Cold Lake on Thursday on the province’s COVID-19 data map.
There is 107 active cases after 14 new positive tests in Cold Lake today.
Thirty-one new cases were reported in the County of St. Paul. There is 146 cases active currently.
In the M.D. of Bonnyville, there is 85 active cases after five new positive tests.
Eight new cases have been reported in Lac La Biche County, leaving 53 active cases in the municipality.
Smoky Lake County has 72 active cases on Thursday after 12 new cases.
Active cases continue to be under 10 in Two Hills County and Vermilion River County.
Dr. Hinshaw reported 967 new cases of the virus in Alberta on Thursday after roughly 16,000 tests.
There are 806 in hospital with the virus, with 136 of those in intensive care units.
In the past 24 hours, 21 new deaths have been reported to Alberta Health, said Dr. Hinshaw.
Roughly 67,000 vaccines have been administered to Albertans thus far.
M.D. of Bonnyville considers motion
The decision comes after more local officials were questioning why these businesses should be forced to remain closed.
“People are frustrated and I’m with them,” said Reeve Greg Sawchuk on The Morning After.
“This has gone on long enough. I think that there is the ability to open up all businesses, and to do it with certain restrictions, same as they had before.”
“I think, once again, we need to circle the wagons around those that are most vulnerable, and let the rest of the world move on. Even if it means our numbers go up, we’re seeing those who are under the high risk group being very able to handle this COVID. And I thought it was very interesting to see that Alberta had no flu cases there when they came up with that one….so I’m frustrated like everybody else,” said Sawchuk.
M.D. of Bonnyville council discussed the provincial health restrictions on Wednesday as Cold Lake and Bonnyville councils did earlier this week, as hair salons and restaurants grew more frustrated with their forced closure.
There was conversation of a motion to allow these businesses to open within the M.D., but Sawchuk said that is not possible because then the municipality would be held liable.
“The province has in place that it’s a public health emergency still and they put those regulations in place, we would be going against them, and so we could be held liable in that case. But I think we have to stand up for our residents and try and push the government on this thing. That’s about the limit of what we can do at this point in time,” said Sawchuk.