Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has launched yet another COVID-19 crackdown which includes possible curfews and increased enforcement of people at outdoor patios to make sure they are from the same family unit.
Kenney announced current lockdown measures haven’t been strong enough to bend the curve as a third COVID-19 wave – this time with variants – rolls through the province now affecting a record 21,000 people.
The province will now be divided into hotspots – areas with 350 cases per 100,000 people.
Those hotspots are:
• Fort McMurray
• Red Deer
• Grande Prairie
• Strathcona County
Municipalities with those figures or higher can request to bring in a curfew if they wish. The government will implement a curfew where case rates are significantly high, specifically case rates above 1,000 per 100,000, and if a municipality or region requests it. Details will be announced prior to any curfew being implemented.
Junior and senior high schools in the hotspot areas will move to home learning. K-6 students will continue in-classroom learning unless otherwise approved by Alberta Education to shift to online-learning.
All gyms and indoor fitness activities are now cancelled. Outdoor fitness activities may continue under provincewide restrictions currently in place, including individual or household one-on-one training with a trainer.
All youth and adult indoor group physical activities, including team sports and one-on-one training sessions, are prohibited.
And Kenney said authorities will launch a crackdown on outdoor dining areas. Six people from the same household are allowed to dine together on patios. Kenney said AHS inspectors and police will be clamping down on people to make sure they are from from the same family.
And Kenney said those who are fined during the pandemic will not be able to access registry services until the fine is paid.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the province identified a whopping 2,048 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours. The province identified 1,300 variants in that total and there is a 10.1% positivity rate. There were also three more deaths.
Kenney said there are currently 632 people in hospital in the province, including 151 in ICU, both of them pandemic highs.
“Albertans have to step up to the plate in the next two weeks,” said Kenney.
For the first time Kenney, urged people to “stay home.”
He call variants “our new opponent” and added the new restrictions “underscore the gravity of the situation.”
Kenney noted only 5% of cases have been found to come from the workplace, with the rest being caught in social situations.
The new measures will be in place at least two weeks. If, after two weeks, the case rate falls below the threshold of 350 cases per 100,000 people, these targeted measures will be removed and only current provincewide restrictions will apply. Even if a community falls below the 350 case threshold, the restrictions will remain in place for two weeks.
“We have no choice but to implement these targeted measures to slow growth and bend the curve and protect our health system over the next few weeks.
“These measures are layered on top of Alberta’s robust public health restrictions and will buy a little more time for our vaccination program to protect more Albertans and win the race against the variants. We must respond with a firm stand against COVID-19 now so that we can enjoy a great Alberta summer.”
Health Minister Tyler Shandro said: “The highly transmissible variants of concern are a game-changer and in turn, we have to change our approach to be successful. No one person or community is to blame, but the evidence is showing that certain areas are experiencing significantly higher spread. To get cases in these municipalities under control, we must take additional action. By following these new restrictions and ramping up our vaccination program, we will be successful in winning this fight.”
Hinshaw said: “I know Albertans, even those who have faithfully followed the health guidance and worked to keep not only themselves but their fellow citizens safe, are tired. But if we can muster the strength to make it through these next few weeks, we will allow our vaccination program a chance to protect more Albertans, and in end, we will get COVID-19 under control in Alberta.”
Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard