reopen alberta

Alberta joins the list of provinces slated to start re-opening in the coming days

Alberta is the latest Canadian province to announce a framework to gradually re-open its economy, with some businesses set to open their doors to the public within the week.

Residents will be able to return to places where it will be easy to maintain proper social distancing, like golf courses (minus their club houses and pro shops) and parks, starting May 4. Boat launches will also be opened at this time.

While frontline healthcare workers continue to battle COVID-19 in the province's hospitals, other medical practitioners like physiotherapists and dentists will also be permitted to return to work in this preliminary phase of deconfinement, and some non-urgent surgeries, which were put on hold in March, will be resumed.

Other non-essential businesses like retail stores, hair salons, museums and galleries, as well as bars, cafes and restaurants, are slated to be re-opened as soon as May 14 — the official start of "Stage 1" — depending on how provincial testing and contact tracing have improved by that time.

These establishments will, of course, need to operate under new guidelines to ensure everyone's safety, including significantly reducing their capacity and ramping up sanitation procedures.

People will be able to use campgrounds, which will start taking online reservations again on May 14, by June.

Unlike Quebec, which is due to have students return to school this month, Alberta schools will remain closed during this first stage (though daycares will be re-opened with new restrictions). Gatherings will continue to be limited to 15 people.

If certain benchmarks are met — including low COVID-19 case counts and hospitalization rates — Alberta will enter a second stage, during which additional businesses like movie theatres can open their doors, schools can resume summer classes and some larger gatherings can take place.

There is not yet a timeline for when this or a third phase, which is essentially a return to life as usual with all businesses and services relaunched and non-essential travel allowed, might be implemented.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney noted in a press briefing on April 30, though, that "a full return to normal won't come until there's an effective vaccine or treatment, or until the virus isn't there to threaten us."

Throughout all of these phases, new health and safety measures will be in place for both business operators and customers.

There will be at least some guidance on mandatory mask-wearing in crowded public spaces, and anyone with respiratory symptoms will continue to be advised to stay home and isolate. Physical distancing practices will also continue, and people still able to work from home will be encouraged to do so.

There is also the chance that if an outbreak becomes more severe at any point, some shutdown measures will have to be re-introduced and the re-launch put on hold.

Alberta joins provinces like Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba, which have all begun or at least announced a plan for the loosening of pandemic lockdown restrictions.

Newfoundland and Labrador also just announced on Thursday a proposal for getting back to business starting May 11.

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