Saturday , 24 July 2021

Premier Kenney announces plan for easing restrictions; restaurants can re-open Feb. 8

Restaurants, children’s sports related to school, and one-on-one personal training will be allowed effective Monday, February 8, as Premier Jason Kenney announced a staged approach to gradually easing more restrictions in the province moving forward.

This stepped approach will be based on hospitalization benchmarks, total hospitalizations in acute care and ICU’s, and is the key metric for easing restrictions, Kenney said during a press conference on Friday afternoon.

Kenney said decisions to ease restrictions would be done “carefully, slowly, and would be driven not by opinions but data.”

Daily case numbers and growth will used to guide increasing or relaxing restrictions.

However, if the UK or South Africa variant of the virus shows spread, restrictions could be enhanced again.

“If cases of COVID-19 surge again, if we start moving once again toward exponential growth like we saw in November-December, and if somehow one of these viral variants take hold in our community, and begins to spread at rates like at other parts of the world, we will have to impose stronger restrictions again,” said Kenney.

A minimum three-week period will be given between announcements of enhanced or relaxed restrictions. If after three weeks the hospitalization numbers are in the range of the next benchmark, decisions will be considered for moving to Step 2.

The same three-week re-evaluation period will be used for all subsequent steps.

The province is in what Kenney called “early steps.”

Step 1 will begin Monday, February 8 with the following measures.

Restaurants, pubs, bars, lounges and cafes can open for in-person service.

  • Maximum of 6 people per table; individuals must be from same household or the 2 close contacts for people living alone
  • Contact information must be collected from one person of the dining party
  • Liquor service ends at 10pm
  • In-person dining must close by 11 pm
  • No entertainment allowed (e.g., no VLTs, pool tables, live music, etc.)

Children’s sport and performance activities

  • Children’s sport and performance activities are permitted if related to school activities, such as physical education classes.
  • K-12 schools and post-secondary institutions are allowed to use off-site facilities to support curriculum-related educational activities.

One-on-one training is permitted

  • Only one-on-one training is permitted for indoor fitness activities (e.g. fitness in dance studios, training figure skating on ice, one-on-one lessons).
  • Sessions have to be scheduled or by appointment. No drop-in or groups allowed.
  • No sports games, competitions, team practice, league play or group exercise of any kind is allowed.
Steps based on hospitalization benchmarks. Moving between steps will happen at least 3 weeks apart to assess the impact on cases. Image: Alberta Health.

The hospitalization benchmarks are:

  • Step 1 – 600 and declining
  • Step 2 – 450 and declining
  • Step 3 – 300 and declining
  • Step 4 – 150 and declining

Premier responds to flouting the rules, restaurants opening and Mayors and Reeve dining-in

When asked about people flouting public health orders, including locally how elected officials publicly broke the rules on Wednesday along with two restaurants, Kenney said:

“It is regrettable to see that some people are in a very deliberately way thumbing the law, and in so doing, at our public health. And when they do it, they are thumbing their nose at ICU nurses, who have been working around the clock. What they are doing is saying that there personal wishes outweigh the need to protect our health care service,” said Kenney.

“I understand people being frustrated and angry with restrictions. People have every right to be deeply frustrated. I especially understand business owners who have been going through incredible stress. But stress isn’t going to get any better if we see widespread violation of the public health measures in this province. And I would plead with these Albertans and to look at this objectively.

“And quite frankly, to see people in elected government positions encouraging a flagrant disregard of public health measures during a pandemic is totally irresponsible. So our approach has been to start with education and work with people towards compliance, but it’s clear to us that there is going to have to be stronger enforcement action to maintain a level playing field, so that law abiding businesses and individuals are not punished for respecting the rules.”

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.