Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced on Monday COVID-19 restrictions will be eased for indoor fitness activities and libraries.
However, further easing of restrictions for retail, hotels, banquet and community halls and conference centres have been delayed because of a recent small increase in the number of active cases and the testing positivity rate, said Kenney.
“We also have seen a small increase in the daily number of new variant cases and that is worrisome too,” he said. “That is why we have to proceed cautiously while still moving forward.”
Kenney said the easing of some restrictions reflects the “tremendous progress” being made in limiting the spread of the virus.
“The sacrifices that Albertans made are the reason we are able to take another step forward today,” said Kenney.
The numbers of people admitted to hospital and were in intensive care has dropped from a peak of 950 to 257 as of Monday, he said. That’s about 200 people below the threshold the government set for safely proceeding to Phase 2 in Alberta’s reopening plan.
Active cases in long-term facilities have also declined by more than 95 per cent and 92 per cent in supportive living facilities from December’s peak.
Beginning Monday, health restrictions are being eased for indoor fitness activities and libraries.
Under the new restrictions, unsupervised low-intensity individual and group exercises will be allowed by appointment only. Mandatory three-metre distancing between participants, coaches and trainers must be maintained at all times and all indoor fitness must be pre-registered with no drop-ins allowed.
Restrictions limiting high-intensity activities, such as running, spin classes, interval training will remain limited to one-on-one training or to a household and one trainer.
Libraries can reopen but are limited to 15 per cent of fire code capacity not including staff.
Low-intensity fitness activities, such as weightlifting, dance classes, pilates, yoga, climbing and the use of treadmills and ellipticals and related equipment will be allowed.
A decision on Step 3 will not be made for at least three weeks.
The key is getting people vaccinated, said the premier.
“It is incredibly frustrating and totally unacceptable that Canada is ranked 40th in the world for per-capita innoculation against this virus.”
Kenney urged the federal government to “catch up to the rest of the world on vaccine procurement.”
He also urged Albertans to continue to avoid indoor social gatherings. About 30 per cent of infections have spread in homes.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro said restrictions on retail businesses and others will remain in place to avoid a spike in cases.
Alberta reported 291 additional cases of the virus Monday, on 5,900 tests, for a positivity rate of 4.9 per cent. There are 4,674 active cases in the province, with 257 people in hospital, including 48 in intensive care.
The province has reported 457 COVID-19 variant cases, including 101 in the central zone.
The central zone has 672 active cases of the virus, with 33 people in hospital, including 10 in intensive care.
Red Deer remains at 499 cases — 67 per cent of central zone’s cases.
When looking at the province’s geospatial mapping for COVID-19 cases on the municipality setting, regions are defined by metropolitan areas, cities, urban service areas, rural areas and towns with approximately 10,000 or more people; smaller regions are incorporated into the corresponding rural area.
With that setting, Red Deer County has 26 active cases of the virus, Lacombe County has 32 active and Clearwater County sits at six active.
Lacombe has 14 active and Sylvan Lake has 17 active cases, while Olds sits at six active. Mountain View County sits at 21 active, Kneehill County has five active and Drumheller has five active.
Camrose County has no active cases and the County of Stettler sits at one active.
Camrose has two active and Wetaskiwin has five active.
In the local geographic area setting, Wetaskiwin County, including Maskwacis, has 26 active cases. Ponoka County, including east Ponoka County, has 20 active.
Rimbey, including west Ponoka County and partial Lacombe County has no active cases.