GRANDE PRAIRIE – The “vast majority” of public health restrictions in Alberta will lift as of Tuesday, including the provincial mask mandate, Premier Jason Kenney announced Saturday.
Kenney said metrics such as hospitalizations, test positivity and COVID-19 wastewater data are all trending in the right direction, even since the province relaxed some restrictions earlier this month.
He said the provincial mask mandate will end March 1, along with all capacity limits for venues, mandatory work from home requirements and social gathering limits.
Masks will still be required in higher-risk settings such as public transit, hospitals and nursing homes, he said.
“Increasingly we have to shift to moving the responsibility from the entire society to a much more focused approach based on personal responsibility,” said Kenney, who made the announcement during the opening ceremony for a new hospital in Grande Prairie on Saturday.
“We just cannot continue on like we have for the past two years indefinitely. We’re going to break society if we keep doing that,” he added.
Health Minister Jason Copping said remaining school requirements such as cohorting and physical distancing will also be lifted, as will health screening before youth activities.
He said isolation is still mandatory for people with COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test.
Kenney ended the province’s vaccine passport earlier this month as well as mask requirements for schools, and mask requirements in all settings for children under 12.
He said at that time that Alberta would enter Step 2 of the reopening plan March 1 if COVID-19 hospitalizations were trending downward.
“We’ve always said we will not allow our hospitals to be overwhelmed, but I am confident that we can avoid ever having to return to damaging restrictions as long as we continue to see people step up, especially with these third shots and we learn to live with COVID,” Kenney said Saturday.
He noted people should still be mindful that COVID-19 is a reality and they will “have to figure out their own risk level.” For those who are immunocompromised, he said that may mean taking extra care if they’re in large crowds.
The City of Calgary immediately issued a statement that its own pandemic face-covering bylaw will end at the same time the province’s does.
Until that time, it said face coverings are still required for everyone over 12 years old in indoor public spaces and public vehicles.
“Some of us will welcome the lifting of restrictions while others will prefer to continue wearing face coverings and following other precautions,” Susan Henry of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency said in the statement.
“We must be kind and compassionate toward one another, respect those personal choices and make space for everyone to move at the speed they feel comfortable with.”
As the premier made the announcement, demonstrators against COVID-19 health restrictions gathered near the legislature again in Edmonton, as they have every Saturday for weeks, as police warned another truck convoy was coming.
Police said they were continuing to direct convoy organizers to refrain from honking horns or otherwise making excessive noise that disrupts residences and businesses, and would continue to enforce traffic violations, including noise violations.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2022.
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