CALGARY — Restaurants, barber shops and hair salons in Calgary and Brooks now have the official go-ahead to reopen their doors on Monday.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says declining COVID-19 case trends in those two cities, which had experienced the highest levels of infections in the province, make the reopening safe.
Such shops were allowed to reopen last week everywhere else in Alberta.
"While this is positive news for many, it doesn't mean that we're out of the woods yet," Kenney said Friday. "COVID-19 still poses a very real risk and we must all continue to act responsibly and look out for one another.
So far, 134 people have died in the province from the virus.
"That number is still likely to rise over the weeks to come," Kenney said.
Retailers including book, clothing and furniture stores, along with daycares and farmers markets were allowed to open up across the province last week.
Restaurants can only open at half capacity and outdoor public gatherings are limited to no more than 50 people.
Kenney said if the case numbers continue to stay flat or decline, Alberta will proceed with the next phase of its relaunch on June 19.
At that time movie theatres, spas, and other specialized personal care services could be allowed to reopen.
As of Friday, Alberta had reported 865 active cases, with 54 people in hospital, and its per capita testing rates remain among the highest in the world. About 228,000 tests have been completed.
The province has begun resuming non-urgent surgeries. And Health Minister Tyler Shandro said that starting next week it will be expanded to operations that require overnight stays, such as heart procedures and joint replacements.
"Albertans who have been waiting the longest will get their surgery first," said Shandro.
The restrictions on Calgary and Brooks last week came with controversy. Hair shop and restaurant owners in those cities, some who stocked up to prepare for reopening, were given 18-hours notice that they would have to stay closed.
Kenney promised that longer notice would be given in the future.
The Opposition NDP renewed a call for Kenney's United Conservative government to reimburse Brooks and Calgary businesses which lost money due to the delayed reopening.
"(Kenney) cost them money by pulling the rug out from under them last week and refuses to take responsibility," Joe Ceci, the municipal affairs critic, said in a statement.
"Business owners lost money on preparing to reopen — including restaurants that saw their inventory spoil. We've heard from restaurant owners they’ve lost on average $10,000.
"They need to be reimbursed after Jason Kenney blindsided them."
Asked by reporters if he would reimburse the owners, Kenney declined to answer directly but noted his government has put in incentives, reductions and deferrals to help all businesses.
"Obviously, we regret that some restaurants had purchased inventory two weeks back and were understandably disappointed with the decision that was taken to delay sit-in service," said Kenney.
"I would point out that we have allowed take-out service and we did permit restaurants to do liquor off-sales, which has helped some of them to liquidate their liquor inventories and bring some cash in."
— By Dean Bennett in Edmonton
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 22, 2020
The Canadian Press