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Hundreds protest COVID-19 social restrictions at Alberta legislature grounds

Protesters gathered at the Alberta legislature to protest COVID-19 restrictions on Wednesday, April 29, 2020. Wes Rosa / Global News

As the province urges physical distancing and has restricted gatherings of over 15 people in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, hundreds of people gathered at the Alberta legislature grounds Wednesday to show their displeasure for those rules.

The protest was organized by a group that calls itself End the Lockdown Alberta, which told Global News on Sunday that it wanted to see schools and gyms reopen and gatherings limited to 50 people.

READ MORE: Alberta group plans protest at legislature in hopes of easing COVID-19 restrictions

At the protest on Wednesday, organizers told Global News they estimated 200 people had attended. Many were seen standing closely together and not following the six-feet distance guidelines that officials have stressed is key to stopping spread.

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“I never expected this many people to show up initially. It was [planned as] more of a — we need to balance this with our freedom of speech, to get the economy going,” Michael Banner, spokesperson for End the Lockdown Alberta, said.

He said that while he believes the Alberta government “did the right thing” with the initial restrictions, now that there is more information and modelling, it should be easing them.

“Now is a great time to say, ‘Okay, how can we help the other side, the other risks?'” Banner said. “Which is our economy being cramped out, fatalities from people in poverty, infant mortality rates, suicides.”

Over a dozen police officers and sheriffs were spotted on scene at the protest.

On Wednesday night, a spokesperson for Alberta Justice confirmed no tickets were issued by the Alberta Sheriffs.

People protesting COVID-19 restrictions at the Alberta legislature on April 29, 2020. Wes Rosa / Global News

READ MORE: Alberta updates COVID-19 modelling, adds low ‘likely’ scenario

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Click to play video: 'Frustrated group of Albertans plan protest at legislature in hopes of easing COVID-19 restrictions' Frustrated group of Albertans plan protest at legislature in hopes of easing COVID-19 restrictions
Frustrated group of Albertans plan protest at legislature in hopes of easing COVID-19 restrictions – Apr 26, 2020

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said Wednesday that she understands how some people may think it’s time to open up.

“It’s completely reasonable for people to look around and say: ‘We don’t see this big impact that the initial models suggested, so we do need to open up,'” she said.

“The concern that I have is that if we do that too quickly, those earlier models can still come true. We haven’t escaped the threat of the virus, we have simply — by all of our collective work — prevented rapid spread.

“Albertans should be proud of what we’ve done. We have averted situations similar to what we had seen in New York,” Hinshaw said.

She added Albertans will be able to enjoy the summer, but will likely have to do so in small groups.

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“I think that Albertans have shown remarkable fortitude and resiliency in responding to this, and I anticipate we will need that in the days to come.”

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