Alberta children and teens will be able to return to team sports and athletics in a limited fashion on Monday as part of the province's relaxation of COVID-19 health measures, the province announced Saturday.
The change applies to school and minor sports and permits the resumption of lessons, practices and conditioning activities for both indoor and outdoor team-based sports.
Previously, only school-related sports were being allowed to return in a restricted manner as part of step one of Alberta's phased reopening plan.
All games remain prohibited.
“Despite this small change, one thing remains the same: we all need to be cautious and make safe choices to limit the spread of COVID-19. It is vital that everyone involved diligently follows the health measures as we move forward," said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health.
"Together, we can continue to reduce the spread and keep protecting our heath system.”
Numerous public health restrictions will remain in effect, including:
- Participants must be under the age of 19.
- A maximum of 10 individuals, including coaches and trainers, can participate.
- Physical distancing must be maintained.
- Masks must be worn by coaches and players except when engaged in physical activity.
- Access to change rooms to be limited.
The changes also include non-sport physical activities such as group dance and gymnastics activities.
An Alberta Health spokesperson says the change was made based on feedback regarding the difficulties of one-on-one training for some youth sports and activities.
"This is intended to provide the opportunity for a team to supplement one-on-one training with team-based training in a safe and responsible way," reads an Alberta Health statement.
The province says all already announced measures of step one of the province's phased reopening will also come into effect Monday.
That includes the restricted resumption of in-person dining at restaurants, cafes and pubs.
The announcement comes four days after Hockey Alberta announced the cancellation of its season. The organization says it learned of the changes "when the update was released to the public this morning."
"It is definitely a positive step for allowing players back onto the ice for hockey activities. Hockey Alberta is reviewing what is now allowed and will update our Members as soon as possible on ‘Hockey’s Path Forward’," Brad Lyon with Hockey Alberta wrote in an email to CTV News.
The reopening plan is set in stages based primarily on the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, but also the number of daily new cases and test positivity percentage, with a minimum of three weeks between each of the four steps.
"Alberta’s government is committed to supporting the health and well-being of children and youth provincewide," said Health Minister Tyler Shandro.
"While these activities are included in Step 1, there are strong measures in place that must continue to be followed."
"Where's the science? Where's the consultation?"