Alberta to ease COVID-19 restrictions on gyms, restaurants, school sports

Alberta to ease COVID-19 restrictions on gyms, restaurants, school sports

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says some COVID-19 public health measures will be eased on indoor fitness centres, school sports, and restaurants and bars.

The changes are to start Feb. 8.

Kenney said Friday that hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have dipped below 600 and, while Albertans need to continue to be cautious, some rules can be relaxed.

One-on-one training will be permitted in fitness gyms, dance studios and skating rinks.

School-related children’s sports and activities will be allowed to use off-site facilities.

And up to six people from the same household, or those who live alone with two close contacts, can dine in restaurants, cafes and pubs, with liquor service ending at 10 p.m. and dining at 11 p.m. Staff must collect contact information from one person from each table.

“There’s a mental health crisis in this province that has been deepened and worsened by the economic damage of the past 10 months,” Kenney told a news conference.

“To tell small business owners that they may be shut indefinitely, to give them no path or sense of hope, leads to even greater despair.

“We have to give, I think, a measured path that is safe but also presents a sense of hope.”

If hospitalizations continue to decrease, Kenney added, further restrictions may be eased.

The next step, if hospitalizations are under 450, would be to change the rules for retail businesses, community halls, hotels, banquet halls and conference centres.

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

On Friday, Alberta reported 543 new cases of COVID-19 and 14 additional deaths. There were 594 people in hospital, with 110 of those in intensive care. Hospitalizations peaked in Alberta at 795 on Dec. 30.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical health officer, said 31 cases of the COVID-19 variant from the United Kingdom and six of the variant from South Africa have so far been detected in Alberta. Experts say the variants are more contagious.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 29, 2021


The Canadian Press