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Coronavirus: Kenney says Edmonton Expo Centre will be used for vulnerable population

Click to play video 'How local state of emergency helps support Edmonton vulnerable population' How local state of emergency helps support Edmonton vulnerable population
WATCH ABOVE: City of Edmonton interim city manager Adam Laughlin talks about how the local state of emergency will help support the operation of the temporary Edmonton Expo Centre homeless shelter.

One day after Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson pleaded with the provincial government to make a decision on supporting the vulnerable population amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has announced the Edmonton Expo Centre will be used.

“AHS (Alberta Health Services) will provide medical support, public health support. And community and social services, as well, will be providing support to these backup homeless locations,” Kenney announced in Question Period on Friday.

Community and Social Services is also to be involved.

Kenney said Calgary has also identified backup locations.

READ MORE: Edmonton mayor pushes ‘province to make a decision now’ to help vulnerable population amid COVID-19 pandemic

On Thursday afternoon, Iveson addressed the media, saying the city was ready to respond and support Edmonton’s vulnerable population, but that the province needed to make the decision first.

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“This option has been before the government of Alberta for several days,” Iveson said Thursday afternoon. “I want the city to take action on this, but without Alberta Health Services embedded in the intake to manage public health risks, the risks of concentrating so many people in one place would be too substantial for us to take on our own.”

Click to play video 'Mayor Iveson on Edmonton Expo Centre being used for vulnerable population' Mayor Iveson on Edmonton Expo Centre being used for vulnerable population
Mayor Iveson on Edmonton Expo Centre being used for vulnerable population

During the province’s daily COVID-19 update on Thursday, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said there were teams of people working to make a solution happen and that following the proper procedures sometimes causes things to move slowly.

READ MORE: Alberta government releases plan to keep K-12 students learning amid COVID-19 pandemic

“I am pleased to inform the House that the Emergency Management Committee of cabinet accepted recommendations this morning to work with the cities, to provide services at, and funding support for, alternative locations for the homeless shelters, as well as back-up locations for prospective quarantines for the homeless,” Kenney said Friday.

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The government has already promised $60 million for charitable and non-profit groups to support seniors and other vulnerable populations hit hard by COVID-19.

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Also Friday, the government, with the support of the NDP, introduced and passed in one sitting changes to better co-ordinate provincial and municipal roles and rules in delivering aid.

Opposition Leader Rachel Notley renewed her call for Kenney to pass legislation to stop landlords from evicting tenants who don’t pay rent come April 1.

Kenney said he would consider it but noted some landlords have promised they won’t evict. He also suggested there could be unintended consequences of such a broad law, because people still may need to be evicted for other reasons, such as criminal activity.

READ MORE: University of Alberta med students offer child care to doctors amid coronavirus pandemic

Kenney said Alberta’s health system has 477 adult critical ventilators, with 50 more already ordered. There are also 78 pediatric critical care ventilators

He said Alberta is working with other provinces to obtain more ventilators.

“We don’t think we’ll need them, but in an excess of caution we’ll participate in that program.”

NDP critic Joe Ceci urged the province to backstop funding for municipalities to allow towns and cities to defer property taxes, something that would cost billions of dollars.

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Click to play video 'Edmonton Expo Centre to house vulnerable population' Edmonton Expo Centre to house vulnerable population
Edmonton Expo Centre to house vulnerable population

Finance Minister Travis Toews said the government is working with municipal officials on financial relief programs but he didn’t list specific initiatives.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Edmonton looking at property tax, utility bill deferrals in light of COVID-19

Labour Minister Jason Copping said workplace health and safety inspectors are focusing on health-care facilities to make sure, among other things, staff have enough personal protective gear such as masks.

On the food front, Kenney said the province is not inclined to legislate limiting customers in grocery stores to prevent large gatherings, but pointed out some chains are already doing so on their own.

Iveson is expected to speak to the media again Friday afternoon, though the city has not announced what time that will occur. That availability will be live-streamed in this post.

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Kenney will provide a COVID-19 update at 3 p.m. on Friday.

With files from Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press.