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Alberta proposes to start reopening economy by mid-May

Last Updated Apr 30, 2020 at 4:10 pm MST

While local businesses take a significant financial hit, the vast majority in Calgary are following public health guidelines by closing up during the COVID-19 pandemic. (PHOTO: Tom Ross - 660 NEWS)

Restrictions can start being lifted as soon as May 1, including allowing access to some public lands and parks

Stage one can take effect as early as May 14, allowing most businesses to reopen with restrictions on capacity remaining

The province has a response plan in place in case outbreaks occur, and testing will be expanded to limit spread

EDMONTON (660 NEWS) — The provincial government has unveiled an ambitious plan to begin reopening the economy by the middle of May.

Premier Jason Kenney is proposing a three-stage plan, with some restrictions being lifted on May 1.

Kenney said Albertans have been reacting responsibly so far throughout the pandemic but this will require continued vigilance to avoid setbacks and some of the allowances being dialed back again.

“We will move forward together with care and common sense, knowing tough times are still ahead,” said Kenney.

Early actions include reopening vehicle access to parking lots and staging areas in parks and on public lands on May 1 and then allowing Alberta Health Services to resume some scheduled, non-urgent surgeries as soon as May 4.

Dental and other health-care workers, such as physiotherapists, social workers, occupational therapists and more can resume services on May 4 as well, as long as they follow approved guidelines.

With the spring weather settling in, the province aims to open some boat launches and provincial parks on Friday, with many campsites open by June 1.

In addition, golf courses can open on May 4 as long as restrictions are maintained including keeping clubhouses and pro shops closed, however on-site shops and restaurants can open.

The staged plan will then be put in place a couple of weeks later, ideally, as long as several safeguards are established: enhancing COVID-19 testing, supporting positive cases with isolation, strengthening borders and airport screening, establishing rules for wearing masks in crowded spaces, and maintaining strong protections for the most vulnerable such as those in long-term care.

Once this is achieved, the province envisions stage one taking place as early as May 14, which would allow most retail businesses to reopen including clothing, furniture and book stores.

Some personal services, like hairstyling, will reopen as well, and more surgeries, dental procedures, chiropractic and similar services will be allowed.

Cafes and restaurants will be allowed to welcome in patrons for sit-down service at 50 per cent capacity in this first stage as well, but bar service will not be allowed.

Museums and art galleries could be reopened in this first stage, and daycares can operate with limits on occupancy.

Gatherings of more than 15 people will still be prohibited in this stage so movie theatres, recreation centres, gyms, nightclubs and more will stay closed.

If stage one is successful, the province will open up schools, more personal services, movie theatres, and allow some larger gatherings.

The timing will rely on the success of the first stage, and there will still be limits such as nightclubs, pools, gyms, recreation centres and arenas remaining closed.

Non-essential travel will also still be not recommended through the first two stages of the strategy.

Finally, the third stage will see everything reopen and almost all restrictions on gatherings and travel removed.

Some guidelines will remain in place, however, so it will not be completely business-as-usual to limit the potential spread of the virus again.

The province adds a rapid response plan is in place in the event of more outbreaks, including protocols to identify close contacts and limit spread and making testing widely available.

Temporary housing could also be provided for people in isolation, along with other necessary supports for anyone at risk.

Physical distancing requirements of two metres will stay in place through all stages of the relaunch, and people are urged to continue practising good hygiene practices as well as staying home if you are sick in any way.

“There are signs that our collective efforts of physical distancing, good hygiene practices, and staying home when advised are helping to slow the spread,” said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr Deena Hinshaw.

“However, we must guard against complacency and be patient to ensure the sacrifices we have already made to contain the virus are not wasted by carelessness as we gradually reopen businesses and services.”