Opening Soon: Alberta Introduces Plans for Staged Economic Relaunch

May 1, 2020

On April 30, 2020, Premier Jason Kenney outlined Alberta’s plans to re-open the economy, following measures that had previously forced the closure of approximately 15% of businesses in the province. The relaunch strategy, dubbed “Opening Soon”, sets out a staged approach to returning to normal living. Physical distancing requirements and limitations on the size of public gatherings will continue to be in place throughout all stages of the recovery plan.

As noted in a prior essential services list published by the Alberta Government, construction, manufacturing and natural resources sectors will continue to be permitted to operate throughout all stages of the relaunch strategy.

Foundational elements of the relaunch strategy include:

  • Increased testing capacity and surveillance of potential COVID-19 cases;
  • Increased efforts in contact tracing;
  • Support for those who test positive to help isolate and prevent further spread;
  • Continued border controls;
  • Implementation of rules for use of masks in public spaces;
  • Continuation of protection for vulnerable segments of the population, including the elderly in long-term care facilities; and
  • Outbreak response plans to localized outbreaks of COVID-19.

Stage 1

Effective as early as May 14, Alberta will enter Stage 1 of the relaunch with increased infection prevention controls. Stage 1 will allow some businesses to reopen and resume operations, subject to two-metre physical distancing requirements. These businesses include:

  • Post-secondary institutions, with some opportunity to offer courses online, in-person, or a blend of them, dependent on remaining restrictions in place;
  • Retail businesses, including clothing, furniture and bookstores;
  • Some personal services businesses, including hairstyling and barber shops;
  • Museums and art galleries;
  • Physiotherapy, chiropractic, optometry and similar services;
  • Daycares and summer camps, subject to occupancy limits; and
  • Dine-in restaurants, cafés, lounges and bars, at 50% of capacity.

Remote working continues to be recommended throughout Stage 1, and non-essential travel in Stage 1 is not recommended.

Stage 2

The timing of Stage 2 will depend on the success of Stage 1 and on the capacity of the healthcare system (including infection rates, hospitalizations, and intensive care cases). Additional businesses will be able to re-open and resume operations, again with two-metre physical distancing requirements. These businesses include:

  • Kindergarten to Grade 12 schools, with restrictions;
  • Personal services, including artificial tanning, esthetics, cosmetic skin and body treatments, manicures, pedicures, waxing, facial treatments, massage and reflexology;
  • Restaurants, cafés, lounges and bars at reduced capacity;
  • Select larger gatherings, dependent on risk levels; and
  • Movie theatres and theatres, with restrictions.

Recommendations on remote working in Stage 2 appear to be lifted, although non-essential travel in Stage 2 continues to be discouraged.

Stage 3

At Stage 3, businesses will be able to fully re-open, with limited restrictions, and larger gatherings will be permitted (with capacity limits to be determined). Large events, such as arts and culture festivals, concerts, major sporting events and gatherings such as industry conferences will be permitted with enhanced controls in place, including physical distancing.

Recommendations on remote working appear to be lifted in Stage 3, and non-essential travel will no longer be discouraged.

Timing and Progression Through Stages

The relaunch strategy emphasizes that the relaunch is not a linear progression, and may not apply evenly throughout the province. Measures may be discontinued or reapplied in local areas, depending on local conditions.

Triggers and key measures to be used for moving between stages will be based on the percentage of tests that are positive, and on hospitalization and ICU utilization statistics. As an example, one metric referred to in the Premier’s press conference is declining or stable hospitalization rates over a period of two weeks. Such metrics will inform decisions to move from one stage to the next.

Going Forward

Additional details are expected to be released in the coming days.

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