Alberta is forcing many of the province’s storefront businesses to shutter their doors to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The types of businesses that have to close include “close-contact businesses,” such as hair salons, tattoo and piercing studios. Dine-in restaurants are also affected – although take-out and delivery are still allowed – along with many types of retailers. Also included on the list are non-emergency and non-critical health services including dentistry, physiotherapy, massage, podiatry, chiropractic and optometry services.
The new order took immediate effect following an announcement late Friday afternoon.
Premier Jason Kenney said the decision wasn’t made lightly, and he understands it will result in more economic pain. “But the more we comply with rules like these, being recommended by our public-health experts, the faster we can get through all of this and restart our economy.”
The Alberta government also introduced new measures to limit group gatherings – including weddings, funerals and religious celebrations – to 15 people, from the previous 50-person limit.
The move from the western province follows similar steps from Ontario and Quebec, which made declarations for the mandatory closure of “non-essential” workplaces at the beginning of the week.
Alberta did not use the same “non-essential” wording as those two provinces, and the order doesn’t appear to be as far-reaching. Alberta instead provided a specific list of businesses that have to close.
In Alberta, workplaces that have not been ordered to close can continue to have more than 15 workers on a worksite, as long as those businesses maintain public-health measures, including two-metre social distancing, hygiene enforcement and processes that ensure that any person who is ill does not attend these spaces.
Any business not following the new public-health order will be subject to a fine of up to $100,000 for a first offence, and up to $500,000 for a subsequent offence. The government is asking anyone who sees businesses violating these orders to submit a complaint.
The government also introduced new COVID-19 specific protection for renters, saying effective immediately, there can be no rent increases, even those previously planned, and no evictions for non-payment of rent or utilities – even for those who haven’t been able to pay their rent for several months.
The government said it’s asking landlords and tenants to work together to develop payment plans while the state of public-health emergency is in effect.
Alberta also announced Friday it’s closing vehicle access to all provincial parks and provincial recreation areas, to further prevent large group gatherings.
The Globe and Mail
Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters.