First Nation and Metis leaders in Alberta say the province’s new, and tougher, restrictions on gatherings because of the COVID-19 pandemic are coming too late.
“Personally, I thought that these restrictions should have went down awhile back, so that we can bend the curve,” said Marilyn Poitras, regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations in Alberta.
“So, people can spend Christmas with their families. It’s a really critical time and mental health issues are on the rise. And it will be even more so when people can’t get together for Christmas.”
Alberta currently has 20,199 active cases, the most of any province.
As of Dec. 13, the following restrictions will be in place province wide; retail stores and shopping malls will have a 15 per cent capacity limit, bars and pubs will only be allowed to serve takeout and curbside delivery, all entertainment businesses must close, including casinos, art galleries, museums, night clubs and theatres, churches are limited to 15 of fire code capacity.
Employees are mandated to work from home unless it is impossible to do so, mandatory masks must be worn in all working indoor places and places of worship, all indoor and outdoor social gatherings are prohibited with a potential find of $1,000, and close contacts are limited to household members only.
“The virus is spreading at an alarming rate in every region of the province,” said Alberta’s Premier Jason Kenney. “Many of those who feel ill in rural areas do end up being cared for in the increasingly hard-pressed large urban hospitals. So, the bottom line is that we must have a coordinated, province-wide approach now.”
Herb Lehr, president of the Metis Settlements General Council said he approves the new measures.
“I think it’s something that is good. I think that above all else, health and life come first. And we need to do everything in our power to protect that,” he said.
But Lehr said the province should have implement these harsher restrictions earlier.
“I think the Province has been too slow in doing this. It’s been trying to protect the economy, I understand that. But if everybody is dying, you’re not stimulating the economy, other than undertakers,” Lehr said.
Alberta has seen 666 COVID-19 deaths as of Dec. 10.
The new restrictions will be in place until at least Jan. 12, 2021.
“We have to be vigilant and patient,” Poitras said. “Like everything else, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. This too shall pass.”