by Stephen Dafoe
With provincial hospitalizations at 474 and ICU numbers at 89, Alberta will move forward on Monday with the lifting of restrictions on in-person dining and one-on-one fitness programs in gyms announced Jan. 29. However, with COVID-19 variants present in the province, the Opposition NDP are calling the loosening of restrictions “premature and highly risky.”
In addition to concerns about potential health risk, the NDP expressed concern restaurants would lose out on government subsidies by opening.
“Jason Kenney and the UCP have done very little to support small business and this move will actually disqualify them from federal support,” said NDP critic for Economic Development and Innovation Deron Bilous. “The UCP government is forcing business owners to make a terrible choice – open their doors and put themselves, staff and customers at risk, or stay closed without any support from this government.”
NDP Health Critic David Shepherd added it makes no sense loosening public health restrictions when COVID variants are present.
The prolonged shutdown of restaurants and pubs, in place for almost two months, has led some to defy health orders and open to sit-down dining. In recent interviews and conversations with some local businesses, Morinville Online has found their sales are down as high as 75 per cent.
On Jan. 12, the Alberta Hospitality Association wrote an open letter to government calling for an end to the shutdown, but accepting enhanced restrictions in open restaurants.
“Hundreds of thousands of jobs across the province depend on open communication and a concrete plan from the Alberta Premier, the Chief Medical Officer, and our elected officials,” the letter read, noting government decisions needed to be fact-based data.
Two weeks later, Premier Kenney announced a phased approach to reopening based on hospital capacity. Restaurants will remain open to in-person dining as long as hospitalizations remain under 600.
Monday’s loosening of restrictions allows restaurants to resume in-person dining under the following restrictions:
- 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 10 pm
- In-person dining must close by 11 pm
- No entertainment allowed (e.g., no VLTs, pool tables, live music, etc.)
As of Friday’s government update Morinville had no new cases, no recoveries, for a total of 27 active cases. Sturgeon County had three new cases, two more recoveries for a total of 29 active cases.
Sturgeon County has had a total of two deaths, Morinville has had 10 deaths.
For complete details on provincial numbers, including total active cases, recoveries, lab testing data and comorbidities, visit https://www.alberta.ca/stats/covid-19-alberta-statistics.htm.