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Province takes a step back in reopening, amid increase in COVID-19 cases

Restaurants, indoor fitness, retail affected by Tuesday's announcement.
File photo

ALBERTA - A sharp increase in hospitalizations due to COVID-19, along with an increase in positive cases being seen across the province, has resulted in the Government of Alberta deciding to take a step back in its reopening strategy.

On Tuesday afternoon, Premier Jason Kenney, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, and Minister of Health Tyler Shandro took part in the announcement. Effective 11:59 p.m. on April 6 (Tuesday), updated mandatory health measures will go into effect for retail, fitness and performance activities.

Then, effective at noon on Friday, April 9, restaurants will be restricted to providing mostly only takeout, and delivery services. Thanks to some warmer weather, the province will allow outdoor patio service to continue for people who are living in the same household.

"Alberta will remain in Step 1 with restaurant restrictions until further notice," according to the Government of Alberta.

“We are taking strong action to stop the third wave from threatening our health system and the health of thousands of Albertans. The rapid rise in cases, especially variants of concern, makes this a critical time to stop the spread. These measures will buy us some time for additional COVID-19 vaccines to arrive and take effect so we can once again start safely easing restrictions as quickly as possible," said Kenney.

Hinshaw said she was "extremely concerned by the recent increase in COVID-19 cases in Alberta."

"All Albertans must take these additional measures very seriously. This virus is highly contagious. Only by working together can we protect each other, reduce the spread and protect our health system," said Hinshaw. She encouraged Albertans to "dig in" and bend down the curve "one last time."

Hinshaw also acknowledged that it was natural for Albertans to feel frustrated by the situation. 

In her update, Hinshaw noted that over 40 per cent of the confirmed cases she reported on Tuesday involved variants of concern.

As per the new restrictions, adult performance activities are not permitted. This includes activities such as dancing, singing, acting, playing a musical instrument and any rehearsal or theatrical performances.

Also, indoor fitness has been reduced to one-on-one training only.

"Group fitness, high or low intensity, is not allowed," according to the Government of Alberta.

As for retail, customer capacity must be reduced to 15 per cent of fire code occupancy. Places of worship will continue to be allowed 15 per cent occupancy also.

Personal and wellness services will remain open by appointment.

"Indoor social gatherings continue to be prohibited," according to the province, and, "Outdoor social gatherings are limited to 10 participants, provided physical distancing and other measures continue to be followed."

Albertans are being encouraged to gather outdoors to see friends and family, while maintaining physical distance.

"This is only a temporary setback," said Shandro, as he spoke on Tuesday.

One area that saw little impact was youth sports. 

"Lessons, practices and conditioning activities, but not games, may occur for indoor team-based minor sports/activities and school athletics," according to the province. Participants must stay physically distanced, and can only be in groups of 10, which includes the coach.