Banff declares a state of emergency amid coronavirus pandemic

People walk across a street in Banff, Alta., in Banff National Park, Friday, July 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

The Town of Banff has declared a state of local emergency as Alberta attempts to stem the spread of COVID-19.

The declaration gives the town the authority to impose restrictions on local businesses and organizations.

In a news release Tuesday, the town said effective immediately, all gatherings are limited to less than 50 people, including employees and customers.

In addition, the town is imposing restrictions on properties to limit the capacity to 50 per cent of their fire load occupancy, up to 50 people.

Officials explained these measures were being taken to help ensure social distancing, and does not include grocery stores, transit, retail, pharmacies and health facilities.

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However, officials said Banff night clubs will be forced to close their dance floors until further notice.

In a news release, Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen acknowledged these changes will impact Banff’s tourism industry, but said they are critical to stopping the spreading of COVID-19.

“The decisions today were not taken lightly,” she said.

We know this will have a significant impact on businesses in town. But we have been in close contact with many establishments who agree that this is the right choice to put the safety of the people in our community as our top priority.”

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Sorensen said she’s aware the restrictions may force some businesses to close for the time being.

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“Restaurants may offer take out or delivery services only,” she explained, “While it can seem extreme to have places we love close, this is in line with national directions on the need for extreme measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.”

Officials said the capacity limits do not include offices as long as staff can work with social distancing, however, they are asking employers to move toward remote-working wherever possible.

Chief Director of Emergency Operations Silvio Adamo said town services are still functioning, and their top priority is maintaining essential services.

“They are managing well,” Adamo said. “Water, sewer and power will keep running and streets and waste services are still serving our community.”

“There is no need to panic or worry that you won’t receive essential Town services.”

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