When and how public health orders will be lifted, including here in Lloydminster, has been unveiled by Premier Scott Moe Tuesday.
The re-opening roadmap will see a gradual return to form over the coming months, in a three-phased process. The Premier notes that this timeline anticipates the first ease in the last week of May, the second in the third week of June, and the third in July’s second week.
These could be slowed or paused due to COVID-19 transmission across the province or in the community if needed. Health officials will be keeping an eye on things like case rates and hospitalizations to factor into that.
In his address, the Premier explains that the biggest thing people can do to get life back to normal is getting their shot when it’s their turn, and follow up for their second dose.
“I know there are still people who are on the fence about getting the vaccine, and I would say to them, it’s time for you to get off that fence. Every day, across Canada, in this province, and around the world, vaccines are saving peoples’ lives. Countries with high rates of vaccinations are reopening and they’re getting back to normal, and at the same time, many countries that have not vaccinated a large number of their population are experiencing a very severe third wave.”
If all moves according to the vaccine plans, the order of easing restrictions will follow this timeline.
The first phase of easing restrictions will take effect three weeks after 70 per cent of people age 40 and above have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and vaccination also opens to everyone over 18. As of right now, this demographic is at 65 per cent having received their first doses.
In this step, indoor private gathering numbers will be allowed to be at 10 across the province, 30 at public indoor gatherings and 150 people at public outdoor gatherings. At houses of worship, 30 per cent of people, or a 150 person maximum, will be allowed.
Current restrictions would remain in place for retail stores, personal care services, event facilities, casinos, bingo halls, theatres, art galleries, libraries and recreational facilities.
Restaurants and bars across the province will reopen at a max of six to a table, with two meters or structural barriers between tables. Dance floors and buffets will remain closed, but VLTs can reopen.
Mandatory masking will still be in place during this phase.
Phase two is expected to take place three weeks after 70 per cent of people over the age of 30 get their vaccine. Currently, that age group is at 53 per cent having gotten at least their first dose.
In this step, private indoor gatherings would increase to 15, with a limit of 150 at public indoor or outdoor gatherings.
Looking at businesses, there would no longer be capacity limits on restaurant tables, retail and personal care services, but they all will have to maintain an occupancy level that allows for physical distancing. Casinos, bingo halls, theatres, art galleries, libraries and recreational facilities can all have a capacity of 150.
When it comes to sport, all remaining restrictions on youth or adult sports would be lifted, but there would be no changes for gyms and fitness facilities.
All guidelines would still apply for primary, secondary and post-secondary schools, along with childcare facilities. The province-wide mask mandate would stay in place as well.
The Government says Phase three is when the rest of COVID-19 restrictions will largely be lifted. It’s based on 70 per cent of people over 18 getting vaccinated, with that entire age group now at 44 per cent having at least one dose. Again, this will take place three weeks after that threshold is met.
What exactly that phase looks like will be based on the progress of the first two steps. During that time, new guidance on indoor gatherings as well as masking will be developed, but all guidelines from phase two will be in place until that plan is fully determined.
Vaccine campaign to continue as restrictions ease
The province also says the vaccine rollout speed will continue at a full pace even as restrictions are lifted. Moe says this is so that people can be fully vaccinated and as such, fully protected.
He added a message for people saying the restrictions are easing to slow, and ones who say it’s too fast, invoking the situation in countries like the USA, UK and Israel.
“We do need to wait a few more weeks so that more people are able to access their vaccine before we start lifting current restrictions. To those that may say we are going too fast, I would point to other countries who are further ahead of us in vaccinations, and have safely and successfully moving through their re-opening plans, which are very close to what we have here today.”
Moe adds that when supply ramps up, so too will be the pace of vaccination.