Social gatherings, whether indoors or outdoors, are now banned in Edmonton and across the province. As well, a province-wide mask mandate is now in effect in all indoor public spaces, including workplaces.
Those are among the mandatory restrictions in place for at least the next four weeks announced by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney in response to surging COVID-19 cases.
“If stronger action is not taken now, we know that hundreds or potentially thousands more Albertans could die,” said Premier Jason Kenney. “We cannot let that happen.”
“We must act to protect lives and we must act to protect our hospitals, plus those who depend on them.”
In addition to the new rules on social gatherings and masks, other restrictions (which take effect Sunday, December 13 at 12:01 a.m.) were announced across a range of sectors:
Closed: restaurants, bars, lounges, cafes and pubs. Take-out dining and curbside delivery are permitted.
Closed: casinos, bingo halls, gaming centres, horse tracks, raceways, bowling alleys, pool halls legions and private clubs.
Closed: libraries, science centres, interpretive centres, museums, galleries, amusement parks and water parks.
Closed: trade shows, conference centres and banquet halls.
Closed: recreational facilities, fitness centres, pools, spas, gyms, studios, day and overnight camps and indoor rinks and arenas.
Closed: personal and wellness services, hair salons, nail salons, barbers, tattoos, piercing and massage. “Allied health services like physio, dentistry, social services, emergency shelters and child care will remain open,” said Kenney.
Outdoor skating rinks and ski hills can continue.
Hotels can remain open, but must close pools, fitness centres, related services and restaurants, the Premier said.
Work from home, school
“All Alberta employees must work from home unless an employer requires a physical presence for operational effectiveness,” said Kenney, adding this was a recommendation but, as of Saturday, is a legal requirement.
No further changes to schools were announced.
Kenney also said the “very real prospect” of the beginning of a vaccination program is weeks away.
“The end of all of this is within sight,” he said.
New City bylaw now on hold
The provincial announcement came hours after Edmonton City Council held a special meeting about COVID-19. Council heard that a bylaw was being drafted for consideration later this week that would itself tighten restrictions on businesses and recreational facilities in Edmonton.
After the provincial announcement, Mayor Don Iveson said the bylaw is on hold.
“I believe these new province-wide measures meet that imperative for additional public health protection,” said Mayor Don Iveson.
The City Council meeting had heard from Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association leaders, who presented an array of statistics—hospitalized cases, ICU cases, virus positivity rates, active cases—to underline the damage being done by the virus and the imperative for more action.
“Either the virus is in control or we’re in control,” said Dr. James Talbot.
“I think it’s clear from the data we’ve shown that the virus is in control. So, that means right now the virus is violating Albertans’ and Edmontonians’ right to be safe, to be healthy and it means it’s restricting their freedom of movement.”
Edmonton City Council plans to meet later this week to determine how best to support the provincial restrictions through communication and enforcement, and to determine how the new restrictions affect City programs and services.
“I urge Edmontonians to support these new rules for our collective safety, and get creative about staying connected virtually through the holidays,” Iveson said.
Editor’s note: this post has been edited to clarify the start time of the restrictions. The ban on social gatherings and the province-wide mask mandate was effective immediately. The other restrictions take effect at 12:01 am Sunday morning, December 13, 2020.