COVID-19 restrictions

Numerous provinces lifting various COVID-19 restrictions

Several Canadian provinces are tweaking their plans for the next few weeks and relieving some of their COVID-19 restrictions.

On February 8, the Alberta government announced that effective at midnight that night, it is scrapping its mandatory proof of vaccination policy.

Premier Jason Kenney said his “careful and prudent” plan will allow the province to “move on from a widespread pandemic response, to get our lives back to normal.” He added that though restrictions have done the job of getting more people vaccinated, those increases have now stopped.

The premier also talked about how pandemic rules have “inflamed” disputes amongst Albertans and “disrupted and even destroyed livelihoods.”

“We’ll never be able to do a full accounting of the extent of the pain and hardship that restrictions have caused,” Kenney said. “We cannot remain at a heightened state of emergency forever. We have to begin to heal, and so Alberta will move on. But we’ll do so carefully, we’ll do so prudently, we will do so only if it does not threaten the capacity of our healthcare system,” Kenney said.

Rules on closing times, alcohol service times, and table capacity in restaurants will remain in place, but entertainment venues will be able to start selling food and drinks again. Capacity limits on many venues have been lifted, except for facilities with a capacity of 500-1,000, which will be capped at 500. Larger facilities with a capacity of more than 1,000 will still be limited to 50 per cent.

Quebec takes slow and steady route

Also on February 8, the Quebec government announced a more slow and steady plan for getting out of its current lockdown and getting the province to “learn to live with COVID”.

Premier François Legault said several COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted as early as Saturday, including those imposed on restaurants. Mask-wearing requirements and the vaccine passport will remain in effect because those are measures “that allow us to currently reopen,” Legault said during a news conference on Tuesday. 

From February 12, restaurants can seat up to 10 people or people from three different addresses per table. Currently, only four people, or two households, are allowed to sit together at a restaurant.

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The plan has been confirmed with a view to lifting nearly all public health restrictions by mid-March.

Bars have to wait two more weeks for their measures to change. Those establishments, which have been closed since December 20, will be able to open at 50 per cent capacity from February 28, albeit with no dancing or karaoke.

Under the current outline of the plan, restaurants and bars will be able to operate at full capacity again from March 14 — two years to the day that Legault first declared a public health emergency in the province.

“After March 14, almost all restrictions will be lifted,” Legault said. “We’re taking a calculated risk to learn to live with the virus, and the best way to live with the virus is to get your three doses of vaccine.”

Saskatchewan also scrapping vaccine passports

While mandatory proof of vaccination will remain in place in Quebec, another province is doing away with the measure that became something of a standard in Canada over the last few months.

Also on February 8, the government of Saskatchewan announced that it will be removing its COVID-19 proof of vaccination and masking policies over the course of the next month.

Premier Scott Moe announced that the proof of vaccination policy will be eliminated at 12:01 a.m. on Feb. 14, while masking will remain in effect until the end of February.

“The reason we’re able to remove this policy is its run its course. It has increased our vaccination rates in the province substantially since it was introduced,” Moe said.

Moe said he thinks the proof of vaccination policy created division in the province, but noted that the benefits “did outweigh the costs.” He added: “Today we deal with a very different strain, the Omicron variant, and the benefits of this policy no longer outweigh the costs.”

In addition, Prince Edward Island has outlined plans to end most restrictions early in April. Premier Dennis King cautioned that the loosening is not a declaration of victory, noting that COVID will remain present.