Premier Jason Kenney told reporters on Tuesday that he hopes to begin reopening Alberta’s economy next month, and at the same time, to begin removing restrictions on social activities related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He had previously suggested he believed such a relaunch may not begin until June but said he was encouraged by some of the revised modelling data and the province’s overall response to the pandemic.
Kenney spoke about what his government has dubbed the province’s “relaunch strategy” after he revealed new COVID-19 modelling that suggests Alberta’s current projected trajectory for coronavirus spread is improving from previous forecasts.
Updated modelling scenarios continue to estimate that Alberta’s outbreak will reach its peak in late May.
“However, the number of Albertans hospitalized at the peak of the virus is predicted to be lower than originally estimated,” the provincial government said in a news relase.
“This reflects Alberta’s experience over the past few weeks and the proportion of cases actually entering hospital and intensive care units.”
The premier said that while the government has no firm dates yet on when to begin reopening the economy, he plans to move forward with that goal “gradually, prudently.”
“We are working around the clock on our phased approach to relaunch.”
Kenney said he hopes to announce some details about the relaunch later this week. He noted that reopening parts of the economy and lifting some social restrictions will require Albertans to be vigilant and cautious about preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus in order to be successful.
Because western provincial economies are somewhat integrated and a number of Alberta communities near provincial borders see steady traffic crossing the border in both directions, Kenney said he plans to speak to B.C. Premier John Horgan and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe about co-ordinating their respective relaunches, at least in terms of recognizing how such actions could impact neighbouring provinces.
Kenney also noted that Alberta’s economy has not shut down to the same degree that some other provinces have.
“Alberta has kept more things open and active than I believe any other province,” he said, “For example, Quebec shut down all of their manufacturing and all of their construction industries. We’ve kept them open in Alberta.
“Other provinces have gone to a maximum of two people gathering in some cases. We allow 15 people to gather. So we have taken more of what I would call a risk-based approach and a less proscriptive approach than other provinces.”
Kenney also noted that even before there was an order to shut down non-essential retail in the province, he was walking down Edmonton’s busy Whyte Avenue and noticed most stores and restaurants were closed.
“So a lot of that was already happening voluntarily,” he said.
At the same new conference, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said that while the province is “starting to see the results of the collective sacrifice we’ve made so far,” Albertans need to remain vigilant about following public health orders and recommendations as recent outbreaks show the spread of COVID-19 could still spike.
Kenney said despite his government’s plans to implement a phased relaunch, it is important for Alberta to know “we are a ways off from returning to our normal way of life.”
“The reality is that this virus will be with us and it will remain a threat as long as we have no effective treatments or vaccines against it,” Hinshaw said.