Lethbridge businesses discuss impacts of new COVID-19 restrictions

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WATCH ABOVE: On Thursday, Alberta announced a series of new temporary measures to help curb the spread of COVID-19. Eloise Therien spoke with a Lethbridge restaurant and fitness facilities about what the new measures might mean. – Nov 12, 2020

On Thursday, the government of Alberta announced new restrictions to deal with the rising number of cases of COVID-19 in the province. The new measures will impact gathering sizes, restaurants, fitness classes, churches and more.

During a news conference in which he spoke via teleconference, Premier Jason Kenney said the new measures were decided on Wednesday. A full list of the new measures can be viewed on the government’s website.

“They’re intended to act as temporary, time-limited measures to help protect the health system and reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Kenney said Thursday.

The restrictions will come into effect on Nov. 13 and last through to Nov. 27.

“This two-week push is, I believe, our last chance to avoid more restrictive measures that I and most Albertans desperately want to avoid,” the premier said, adding he wants people in the province to “focus our efforts for the next two weeks and embrace these common-sense measures.”

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Read more: As Manitoba weathers new COVID-19 restrictions, business owners in tricky situation

Restaurants, bars and pubs with a Class A, B, or C liquor licence must cease the sale of alcohol by 10 p.m., and close by 11 p.m.

“A shutdown or curfew or different restrictions would definitely impact not just our business, but a lot of businesses,” said Kieran Meeks, the general manager of the Duke Pub & Grill in Lethbridge.

“We tried to get back to normal hours and just also serve the community as best as possible, because they’re the reason we have jobs. They’re the reason why we do it.”

However, Meeks said the pub is already considering reducing hours in the winter months as needed, as it is already seeing lower-than-normal sales due to the lack of university clientele.

The fitness industry has also taken a hit with the new restrictions, facing an immediate ban on indoor group fitness classes and team sport activities for the next two weeks.

Joel Kotkas owns Lethbridge Fit Body Boot Camp. He said his business only runs fitness classes and does not offer open gym time. He said he is prepared to return to online classes as his business did before the province’s relaunch.

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Kotkas said his business has been very diligent with cleaning protocols and keeping track of what patrons are attending. He suggested that there are other areas the province could be focusing on.

“There’s not a lot of tracing going back to actual businesses, and it’s more of people out of their own and social gatherings and things and really focusing the efforts there is what I would like to see,” he said.

Read more: New restrictions announced for Alberta as 860 COVID-19 cases, 10 deaths reported Thursday

While he said he can see the need to make changes, Kotkas explained that he believes his business offers a service that many people require to maintain good mental and physical health.

“The fitness industry — fitness businesses are suffering right now, it’s definitely not easy,” he said.

“The more restrictions in place, it’s going to be even more of a challenge, and (obviously) I have a bias, but I also think this is an industry people really need right now.”

The Cor Van Raay YMCA offers a variety of fitness options, including swimming, open gyms and several indoor classes.

While these restrictions will impact the facility, Occupational Health and Safety expert Brian Hlushko said the YMCA is ready to deal with any changes that may come.

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“We’ve been proving since the summer that we can follow these guidance documents,” Hlushko said. “We haven’t been shut down because of COVID(-19). We haven’t had an outbreak here.

“We absolutely can follow them.”

The new restrictions come as 860 new COVID-19 cases were reported in the province on Thursday.

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