Alberta limits gatherings to 15 people, closes non-essential stores as COVID-19 cases hit 542
EDMONTON -- Alberta is reducing maximum gatherings from 50 to 15 people and closing all non-essential business to deal with the growing threat of COVID-19.
After confirming 56 new cases of the novel coronavirus, Premier Jason Kenney announced new rules to prevent more spread.
Alberta is reducing gatherings to no more than 15 people and closing non-essential businesses such as retail stores for clothing, furniture and toys, hair salons and barbershops, tattoo and piercing studios. A full list of essential businesses is posted on the government's website.
Dining at restaurants is now prohibited, but takeout and delivery is allowed, Kenney said.
The province has also suspended vehicle access to its parks and recreation areas.
Those who violate these rules will be subject to the penalties Alberta introduced earlier this week.
"The actions we are talking are tough but necessary to protect public health," Kenney said. "We understand that behind every tough decision lies tens of thousands of jobs and business that will throw people into economic and financial anxiety … but the more that we comply with rules like these being recommended by our public health experts, the faster we can get through all of this and restart our economy."
The Alberta government also introduced new measures to protect renters during the COVID-19 pandemic.
First, renters will not be evicted if they don’t pay their rent by April 1.
Landlords are not allowed to increase rent while Alberta's public health emergency is in effect, and late fees for late payments are suspended for the next three months.
"We're confident that these measures, in addition to previous measures we've announced, and in addition to supports from the federal government, will help Albertans to meet their rent obligations while providing them the security and stability they need for their homes."
UPDATE ON COVID-19 CASES
There are now a total of 542 COVID-19 cases across the province.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said 33 Albertans have recovered from the coronavirus — an increase of six from Thursday.
The province suspects up to 42 of the total cases were transmitted in the community.
There are now 23 in hospital; however, the number of cases in intensive case remained at 10 Friday.
The number of cases at Calgary's McKenzie Towne Long Term Centre increased from 13 to 15, Hinshaw said.
In addition to the closures Kenney announced, Hinshaw said non-urgent diagnostic imaging procedures as well as non-essential and routine laboratory testing will be postponed
"We must free up more lab space for our aggressive COVID-19 testing," she said. "This will help us relieve the strain on the laboratory system and free up more resources for testing related to COVID-19."
Hinshaw added if the situation continues to worsen, the province will have to take stronger measures in the coming weeks.
Going into the weekend, the doctor is also asking Albertans to continue practicing good hygiene and staying home when feeling sick.
"The measures we're putting in place today are significant, but they are small compared to the hundreds of decisions each of us must make," Hinshaw said.
Alberta will not hold news conferences this weekend. Instead, the government will issue a release to update its COVID-19 case count.
As of 4 p.m., there were 4,757 COVID-19 cases and 55 deaths in Canada.