Almost all remaining public health restrictions in Alberta will be lifted on Tuesday as the province proceeds with the second phase of moving to an endemic approach to COVID-19.
The “vast majority” of restrictions will end, Premier Jason Kenney said Saturday, during a ribbon-cutting at the new Grande Prairie Regional Hospital.
“I know there are some who greet the lifting of restrictions with mixed emotions. But I want to remind you, Alberta is not alone in this approach,” Kenney said. He noted that other jurisdictions, such as the United Kingdom, are also lifting restrictions.
Under Step 2, remaining school requirements; youth screening for entertainment and sport activities; capacity limits at large and entertainment venues; operating restrictions on restaurants and bars such as liquor services; all social gathering limits; and mandatory work-from-home requirements will all be lifted.
Indoor masking will no longer be required, except, Kenney said, in “higher-risk settings,” including public transit, Alberta Health Services facilities and continuing-care settings.
The Alberta government’s three-step plan to lifting restrictions had Step 2 beginning on March 1, if hospitalizations were still trending downward.
“Fortunately, all signs here and across the world suggest that the worst of COVID-19 is behind us. The pressure on our health-care system is easing as hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are declining,” Kenney said.
As of Friday, there were 1,259 people in hospital for COVID-19, including 88 in intensive care.
Provincial data shows non-ICU hospitalizations have been generally declining for over two weeks, while the number of ICU admissions has dropped almost 30 per cent in the past week.
The data shows “no evidence at this point to suggest that our transition to normal is negatively affecting our health-care system,” Kenney said.
The premier had forecast the shift to Step 2 earlier this week.
On Monday, via Twitter, Kenney said the provincial government would announce a decision about proceeding to Step 2 on Saturday.
“We will make a prudent decision based on the latest data,” Kenney said at the time, adding that data was showing a decline in the Omicron wave, as well as pressure on hospitals.
“Damaging restrictions should not last one day longer than necessary to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.”
Under Step 1, which started Feb. 9, Alberta removed the restrictions exemption program — the province’s version of the vaccine passport — and “most associated restrictions.”
Capacity limits in “large facilities” and entertainment venues were extended, and food and beverage consumption was allowed in seats.
Mandatory masking requirements in schools, and for children under 13 in all settings, were removed Feb. 14.
But there were still restrictions in place for “food-serving entities” and physical distancing between people from different households was encouraged.
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