Premier Jason Kenney says government does not want to create unnecessary fear, but be “straight up with Albertans” about the impact on the health care system if the growth of cases continues at the same speed, and possibly accelerate.
“We can manage right now. AHS has worked very hard over the last year to increase capacity to do every thing we can. But people need to know there is a limit,” Kenney said on Wednesday morning during press conference to discuss the new COVID-19 restrictions announced Tuesday night.
He said cases are growing by 1.8 per cent daily, and at that pace ICU beds will be overloaded with COVID patients by early June.
“Our stretch capacity is 425 COVID ICU beds. But let’s be clear we can only open up those staffed beds by massively cancelling surgeries and other health care procedures, the cost of which would be very high and frankly, would also likely cost lives.”
The sweeping COVID-19 public health measures that will be in place for the next three weeks. The new set of rules apply to municipalities or areas with more than 50 cases per 100,000 people or 30 or more active COVID-19 cases. This would include all central Alberta communities except Drumheller.
Some municipalities with 50 cases per 100,000 people or less than 30 active cases will follow slightly different restrictions.
The fine for violating public health orders will also be doubled from $1,000 to $2,000 and the province will be introducing a tougher protocol for repeat offenders.
Kenney said the restrictions announced Tuesday night “are are tough, but they are absolutely necessary.”
“We must act to bend the curve down one last time.”
He said hopefully the number of people who get sick from COVID will decline as more people get vaccinated.
“Today I am pleased to announce that by this coming Monday, every single Albertan over the age of 12 will be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccine. This reflects late-breaking news this morning from Health Canada that the Pfizer vaccine is safe for children at 12 years of age and older, which is obviously great news.”
But there is evidence that vaccines are less effective against the P1 Brazilian variant, he said.
Among the new restrictions, kindergarten to Grade 12 students across the province will move to online learning until May 25 as of Friday.
As of Wednesday, outdoor gatherings are reduced from 10 to five people, with a strong recommendation to keep those gatherings to just two people. Retail services must limit customer capacity to 10 per cent of occupancy.
All post-secondary institutions must shift to online learning today.
On Sunday at midnight, patio service at bars and restaurants across the province will close and move to take-out only.
Gyms, hair and nail salons and barbershops will also have to close Sunday at midnight for at least three weeks.
As of Sunday, all outdoor sports and recreation are now prohibited except with members of your household or, if living alone, two close contacts. This includes all group physical activities, such as team sports, fitness classes, training sessions, one-on-one lessons and training activities and practices, training and games.
Funerals are limited to 10 people and faith services are allowed to have up to 15 people instead of the previous 15 per cent.
Workplaces with three or more COVID-19 cases will close for 10 days, except for essential and critical services. Kenney advised those who can work from home, should do so.