EDMONTON – Alberta is banning all social gatherings, closing restaurants, gyms and hairdressers, and making masks mandatory across the province to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Prime Minister Jason Kenney introduced the new restrictions along with Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Minister of Labor, Economy and Innovation Doug Schweitzer and Medical Director of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, while Alberta added 1,727 new cases of coronavirus and nine deaths on Tuesday.
The prime minister said the new rules are “a last resort”, but necessary to slow the spread of the disease.
“We know that if we allow viral spread at current growth rates, we will end up running out of hospital capacity,” said Kenney, adding that there are currently 654 inhabitants of Albertans with COVID-19 in the hospital, including 112 in the ICU. “This is not an opinion, it is a fact.”
The limits for internal and external social gatherings and the mandatory masking mandate across the province come into effect on Tuesday.
Close contacts are limited to homes and people who live alone can still have up to two close contacts.
The following restrictions take effect on Sunday, December 13, starting at 12:01 pm:
RESTAURANTS, RETAIL AND PLACES OF WORSHIP
Restaurants, bars and cafes will be closed for face-to-face services, but for travel, sidewalk collection and deliveries will be allowed.
“Many restaurants and similar operations have told us that they have closed because they cannot pay their own bills at the moment,” said Kenney. “This will allow them to have full access to federal and provincial support as we go through the difficult weeks ahead.”
Schweitzer said that small and medium-sized businesses can obtain another $ 15,000 as part of a provincial relaunch grant. The government distributed $ 5,000 in the spring, and companies that did not apply can receive $ 20,000 in support.
Other closed businesses also include: hairdressers and manicurists, fitness and recreation centers, swimming pools, arenas, libraries, museums and casinos.
Outdoor recreation is permitted with people in the same house.
Some health services, such as physical therapy, acupuncture, shelters for vulnerable people and emergency services, will remain open.
Retail stores and shopping malls may remain open, but at 15% capacity, sidewalk collection and delivery services will be allowed.
“Malls should be limited to commercial visits by customers, they should not be used as a place to meet or socialize with friends,” said Kenney.
Religious meetings will also be limited to 15%. The province encourages virtual or online services.
Also from Sunday, the government makes homework mandatory for anyone who can do it.
The new restrictions do not affect schools, said the prime minister.
‘HERE IS THE HARD TRUTH’
The restrictions will be in force for at least four weeks, which means that the inhabitants of Albert are not allowed to visit the family during the holidays.
The prime minister says, with “great reluctance”, that holiday meetings should be reserved for members of the same household or two close contacts for people who live alone.
“Here is the hard truth: clearly the biggest single source of viral transmission is home meetings,” said Kenney. “It is when we let our guard down, it is when we relax with the people we are close to and it is when the transmission happens more easily. And so, if we loosen up public health measures to allow large family gatherings in just three weeks, we will undoubtedly see a huge increase in hospitalizations and deaths. We simply cannot let this Christmas become a tragedy for many families. “
Kenney said Alberta’s R value, or transmission rate, has stabilized just below 1.2, but additional cases, hospitalizations and deaths are still increasing.
The province’s positivity rate is 9.41 percent and Alberta reported an average of 1,785 cases this week, Hinshaw said. There are 20,388 active infections.
“Today we are asking to do even more and, although it can be overwhelming, it needs to be done. There is no other option, ”she said.
Hinshaw will give another update to the COVID-19 on Wednesday afternoon.
Alberta has reported 72,028 cases, 51,000 recoveries and 640 deaths since March.