Premier Jason Kenney declared a state of public health emergency in Alberta over the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday.
Kenney said the decision came after a meeting with the emergency management committee Monday night.
What is banned
The province is moving forward with aggressive new measures on social distancing, including banning gatherings of groups of 50 or more. Existing events should be cancelled immediately, he said.
Citizens are also banned from public places like casinos, bingo halls, theatres, children’s play centres, recreation centres and arenas, science centres, museums and art galleries, community centres, fitness facilities, and entertainment facilities like movie theatres.
Kenney also advised that weddings and funerals of more than 50 people should be cancelled, as should concerts and religious gatherings. Until further notice, all Albertans are restricted from attending bars and nightclubs.
What is not banned
The ban does not apply to health care facilities, grocery stores, airports, the Alberta legislature, and other essential services.
Sit-down restaurants, cafés, coffee shops, food courts and other food-serving facilities, including those with a minors-allowed liquor license, are limited to 50 per cent capacity to a maximum of 50 people.
Restaurant take-out, delivery or drive-through service is permitted. Licensed facilities will also be permitted to deliver liquor.
Kenney said there was no reason to be worried about food shortages and advised against hoarding.
“There is no logical reason for people to go out and buy weeks and weeks — or months — of supplies.”
Non-profit, religious and community soup kitchens are also exempt, as are homeless shelters. Kenney said the province was working with the shelters on a plan for those facilities.
What is a state of emergency?
The province has only ever enacted a state of emergency twice: during the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire and during the southern Alberta floods in 2013.
Declaring one gives the government far-reaching powers so it can take centralized control in a crisis, enact emergency plans and order the evacuation of people, livestock and personal property.
On Tuesday, the province said Alberta’s Provincial Operations Centre has also been elevated from a level three to a level four, the highest level. Kenney said he visited the centre Monday night and was impressed with the staff.
“I know that this province is resilient and we are ready for the test,” Kenney said. “I have full confidence in our public health and safety officials and we will continue doing everything in our power to contain the outbreak and keep Albertans safe.”
Municipalities, charitable and non-profit organizations providing social services support will immediately see $60 million to support their COVID-19 response, the province said.
The government said the funding will be provided to adult homeless shelters, women’s emergency shelters and the Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) program, which supports municipalities and civil society organizations in providing services to vulnerable Albertans.
On Monday, the province’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said there were 18 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number to 74 across the province.
There were 52 cases in the Calgary zone, 18 cases in the Edmonton zone, two cases in the Central zone, one case in the South zone and one case in the North zone.
COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, causes only mild or moderate symptoms for most people, such as fever and cough, but severe illness is more likely in the elderly and people with existing health problems.
The news conference at 1:15 came in addition to the daily update set to take place with Dr. Hinshaw at 3:30 p.m.
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