Premier Jason Kenney has announced regional COVID-19 health restrictions as the province hit a daily record of COVID-19 cases.
The targeted measures will be in effect in hot spots across the province, in communities and regions where there are more than 350 active cases per 100,000 people and that have at least 250 total active cases.
That includes Red Deer, Edmonton, Calgary, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Airdrie, Lethbridge and Strathcona County.
All junior and senior high schools in these communities will move to online learning starting Monday.
“The important thing is this, if Albertans take this seriously and I think that more stringent measures like this can at least get people’s attention that this really matters,” Kenney said.
“If people follow what we are calling on them to do, especially in those areas where there is a surge in cases right now, we can get past this and let the vaccines start to beat the variants.”
The restrictions will be in place for a minimum of two weeks, even if the municipality drops below the threshold at any point. If cases reach more than 1,000 or more per 100,000 people, a curfew could be put in place.
All indoor fitness and indoor sports in these communities will be prohibited. All youth and indoor group physical activities are also prohibited.
Outdoor sport and recreation activities may continue under provincewide restrictions (Step 1) currently in place.
Outdoor team sports where two-metre distancing cannot be maintained at all times (such as basketball, volleyball, soccer, football, slo-pitch and road hockey) remain prohibited.
Outdoor fitness training is allowed, as are physically distanced group fitness classes with a maximum of 10 participants. Outdoor group physical activity with different households must be limited to 10 people or fewer and two-metre distancing must be maintained at all times.
There were no changes to outdoor or indoor gathering limits or to restaurants, where indoor dining is currently prohibited.
“If your community is not seeing high spread, you won’t see change. I know it’s been a long road. I know many people will not want to take another step in this direction, but we must,” Kenney said.
Kenney added that vaccines haven’t arrived fast enough from the federal government, so the province has been forced to take further action.
He said three weeks ago, the province stepped back to Step 1 of its reopening plan but that hasn’t bent the curve fast enough.
“At the time, we hoped it would be enough to slow the spike of cases and continue to bend the curve back down and buy us some time to get more Albertans vaccinated, but the vaccines didn’t arrive fast enough,” Kenney said.
Kenney said about 40 per cent of Albertan adults have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine and 12 per cent are fully vaccinated.
He said the province is still well situated to provide a shot to every Albertan who wants one by the end of June.
The premier urged people to stay home and that the government will be using the emergency alert system in place to remind Albertans of the new restrictions.
“All I can say is, I don’t want to be standing here two weeks from now, having to bring in something like a hard lockdown that we’ve managed to avoid as a province this past year because people don’t respond to this call,” he said.