Alberta Premier Jason Kenney makes an announcement at a news conference in Calgary on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Kenney is to speak to Alberta’s COVID-19 situation a day after his chief medical officer of health said recent measures to contain the skyrocketing spread of the novel coronavirus are failing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney makes an announcement at a news conference in Calgary on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Kenney is to speak to Alberta’s COVID-19 situation a day after his chief medical officer of health said recent measures to contain the skyrocketing spread of the novel coronavirus are failing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol

‘Stronger action:’ Many businesses to close as Alberta tightens COVID restrictions

Alberta, once a national leader in COVID-19 prevention, has been in free fall for over a month

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, his province relentlessly pounded by thousands of new COVID-19 cases, has reintroduced strict economic lockdown rules and banned all outdoor social gatherings.

“If stronger action is not taken now, we know that hundreds, potentially thousands, of Albertans will die,” Kenney told a news conference Tuesday.

“We cannot let that happen. We will not let that happen.”

Alberta, once a national leader in COVID-19 prevention, has been in free fall for over a month, its health system bending dangerously under well over 1,000 new cases a day with more than 100 people in intensive care.

For days, it has the highest rate of new infections of any province.

To combat the crisis, Kenney announced he is restricting restaurants and bars to delivery or takeout and closing casinos and gyms, recreation centres, libraries, theatres and personal service providers such as hair salons.

Retail stores and churches can remain open, but at 15 per cent capacity. Outdoor skating rinks and ski hills may remain active.

The order comes into effect Sunday.

Outdoor social gatherings had been limited to 10 people but are now banned altogether. Fitness activities, such as skating, skiing, or walking, are fine as long as social distance is maintained.

Kenney also imposed a provincewide mask mandate in indoor public spaces, including workplaces, except for farms.

Alberta had been the only province without a sweeping mask rule, although many communities were already mandating face coverings. Kenney had called it unworkable and unnecessary in remote areas and particularly punitive to farmers who already work in socially distanced settings.

Existing school rules stay in place: all students in grades 7 through 12 must learn at home while in-class learning continues for those in lower grades.

The measures are to remain in effect for at least four weeks, putting them in force through the Christmas season.

Jobs Minister Doug Schweitzer announced $500 million in supports to help small and medium-sized businesses survive the shutdown.

The new rules are similar to orders imposed by Kenney’s government in the spring, except for allowing most retailers to stay open.

In recent weeks, as cases rose precipitously, the Opposition NDP and hundreds of physicians and infectious disease specialists argued for a short, severe lockdown of the economy and public events to avoid swamping the health-care system.

Kenney had argued for a balance of “lives and livelihoods” and said throwing thousands of people out of work would make things worse for the economy, community wellness and mental health.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley told the house Tuesday that Kenney’s decision cost lives.

She later told reporters, after the new measures were announced, that “the premier acted like he didn’t have a choice. But let’s be clear, he has had many choices, many opportunities to act decisively.

“But at every turn he failed to make the tough choice that public health expertise and public health evidence clearly pointed to.”

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said he backs the changes.

“These restrictions will be tough to bear — more so for vulnerable people in our community and for struggling businesses — but there is provincial, municipal and substantial federal aid available that should allow us all to do the right thing and follow these new public health measures to stop this virus,” said Iveson.

The City of Calgary, in a news release, said it also supports the new rules.

It’s the second time in two weeks that Kenney has introduced new restrictions to try to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

On Nov. 24, the premier introduced rules to keep businesses open but with tighter health restrictions and limits on gatherings.

But Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, announced Monday those measures weren’t flattening the curve and tougher rules were needed.

Alberta reported more than 21,000 active cases on Tuesday with 654 people in hospital — 112 of them receiving intensive care. Daily death counts have been in the double digits for much of the last week.

Daily infection numbers have also been over 1,000 since Nov. 24 and more than 1,600 a day for almost a week.

Alberta’s health system has been reassigning patients, staff, wards and spaces to free up more intensive care beds. The province has also consulted with the federal government and the Red Cross on setting up field hospitals to handle patient overflow.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The concept design for the spray park and playground in Pogadl Park. (Photo Courtesy of Canadian Recreation Solutions)
Sylvan Lake spray park tentatively scheduled to open next year

Sylvan Lake Town Council approved the tender of the spray park and playground in Pogadl Park

Alberta's chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says Albertans need to keep making safe choices to start bending the curve back down. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
One new COVID-19 death in Red Deer, 257 additional cases province-wide

Red Deer sits at 459 active cases of the virus

One of the oil paintings stolen from a season home near the boat launch on Kuusamo Krest. (Photo Submitted)
Sylvan Lake RCMP search for paintings stolen from vacation home

Three original paintings were reportedly stolen from a seasonal home

A lone skater practises his shot on a melting outdoor rink recently. As of March 2, all outdoor skating rinks, including the ones on the lake, are closed for the season. (Photo Submitted by Town of Sylvan Lake)
All outdoor skating rinks in Sylvan Lake closed for the season

The Town announced Tuesday morning the rinks on the lake were also closed due to the warm weather

A health-care worker looks at a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Palais de Congress site as Quebec begins mass vaccinations based on age across the province, Monday, March 1, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Nearly 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses arriving in Canada this week: Anand

Anita Anand says she’s received assurances from the vaccine manufacturer

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

hands
The call is out in Rimbey to sign on with a group that is all about building connections

‘Already, we are building a network where we can rely on each other and help each other out’

FILE - Dolly Parton arrives at the 61st annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Grammy-winning singer, actor and humanitarian posted a video on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, of her singing just before getting her COVID-19 vaccine shot. Parton donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee for coronavirus research. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
‘Vaccine, vaccine’: Dolly sings ‘Jolene’ rewrite before shot

The Grammy-winning legend turned 75 this year

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland speaks about the Fiscal update during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday November 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
COVID-19: Wage and rent subsidies, lockdown support to be extended until June

Chrystia Freeland says now is not time to lower levels of support

Many rural seniors are having to travel a long way to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Stettler residents are being told to go to Red Deer, Drumheller or Camrose. (Black Press file photo).
Rural central Alberta seniors have to travel far to get vaccines

Stettler residents are being directed to Red Deer, Drumheller or Camrose clinics

Samantha Sharpe, 25, was stabbed to death at Sunchild First Nation on Dec. 12, 2018. Chelsey Lagrelle was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for manslaughter in a Red Deer courtroom on Tuesday. Photo contributed
Central Alberta woman sentenced to 4 1/2 years for stabbing friend to death in 2018

Chelsey Lagrelle earlier pleaded guilty to stabbing Samantha Sharpe during argument

Calgary police say they received 80 hate crime complaints between January and November 2020. (Pixabay)
‘Racism is a real problem:’ Muslim women fearful following attacks in Edmonton

So far in 2021, three of seven hate-crime-related investigations have involved Somali-Muslim women

Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro speaks during a news conference in Calgary on May 29, 2020. Shandro says Alberta is considering whether to extend the time between COVID-19 vaccine shots to four months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta may follow B.C.’s lead on faster rollout of first COVID-19 dose

Tyler Shandro says a committee of COVID-19 experts is analyzing emerging data and a decision is coming

Most Read