With new cases of the Omicron variant showing no signs of slowing down, some of the industries and businesses that have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic are cautiously optimistic that the Alberta government won’t implement any more restrictive measures.
On Monday, the Ontario government announced that indoor dining will again be shut down as part of that province’s sweeping new health measures.
Ernie Tsu with Trolley 5 and the Alberta Hospitality Association says the pandemic has created much uncertainty for the industry.
“We’re always concerned with more restrictions on the way,” Tsu said. “It always seems to be the hospitality industry that’s singled out first and foremost.”
In Alberta, indoor dining is permitted, but restaurants must adhere to the province’s Restrictions Exemption Program, limit tables to 10 people and stop serving alcohol by 11 p.m.
Although Premier Jason Kenney did not announce further restrictions at a news conference Tuesday afternoon, restaurants are facing another obstacle right now.
“Staffing has been very difficult,” said Mercato owner Dominic Caracciolo. “You lose one person and if another person gets affected in the same department, it can shut down departments and you can have closures.”
Caracciolo says the restaurant is limiting how much contact different shifts have with each other by introducing staggered start times.
The restaurant is also closed on Sundays — a side effect of limited staffing, but also an intentional measure necessary for cleaning, and perhaps most importantly, to give employees a mental health break.
“It’s a tremendous strain on all the people that work here… not knowing the future and not knowing what tomorrow brings,” Caracciolo said. “We seem to be back at that point with Quebec and Ontario being locked down.”
As of Jan. 3, the Alberta government has reduced how much mandatory isolation time is required for fully-vaccinated individuals who test positive for COVID-19 from 10 days to five days.
Tsu feels the move will ease pressures caused by the highly-transmissible Omicron variant.
“It will allow for businesses to keep their staff far more intact, and have regular hours of business.”